After an outcry over comments on racism made by an editor at JAMA, the influential medical journal, top editor Dr. Howard Bauchner, to step down from his post effective June 30th.
The move was announced Tuesday by the American Medical Association, which oversees the journal. Dr. Bauchner, who had headed JAMA since 2011, has been on administrative leave since March as comments on the magazine's podcast had not yet been investigated.
Dr. Edward Livingston, another editor at JAMA, had claimed that socio-economic factors, not structural racism, hampered communities of color. A tweet promoting the podcast had said that no doctor could be racist. It was later deleted.
"I am deeply disappointed with the mistakes that led to the publication of the tweet and podcast," said Dr. Bauchner in a statement. "While as Editor-in-Chief I neither wrote the tweet, saw the tweet, nor did the podcast, I am ultimately responsible for them."
Last month the leaders of the A.M.A. serious missteps and proposed a three-year plan to "reduce structural racism" within the organization and in medicine. The announcement on Tuesday did not mention the status of the investigation at JAMA. The magazine declined further comments.
“This is a real moment for JAMA and the A.M.A. to recreate from a founding story based on segregation and racism to one now based on racial justice, "said Dr. Stella Safo, a black family doctor at the Icahn School of Medicine on Mount Sinai in New York.
Dr. Safo and her colleagues launched a petition, now signed by more than 9,000 people, calling on JAMA to restructure its staff and hold a series of town hall talks on racism in medicine. "I think this is a step in the right direction," she said of the announcement.
However, other reviewers said they would withhold their judgment to see how the organization addressed what it believed to be widespread neglect of the health effects of racism in its magazines.
"In the entire history of all JAMA network magazines, there has been only one non-white publisher," noted Dr. Raymond Givens, a cardiologist at Columbia University in New York. In October, Dr. Givens to Dr. Bauchner and noted that the editors of JAMA magazines were predominantly white and male. Dr. Bauchner replied, according to Dr. Givens don't.
"This is no cause for celebration," he said of the announcement, adding that he did not intend to meet Dr. Endangering Bauchner's work. Even appointing a senior color editor won't solve the problems, said Dr. Givens.
"Finding just one colored person misses the real point," he added. "I'm more interested in a bold voice. I want someone who is willing to take a stand and move things forward."
The podcast that started the events aired on February 24th and did not include black researchers or experts on racism in medicine.
"Structural racism is an unfortunate term," said the white Dr. Livingston on the podcast. “Personally, I think taking racism out of the conversation will help. Many people like me are offended by the suggestion that we are somehow racist. "
The podcast was promoted with a tweet from the magazine that said, "No doctor is racist. So how can there be structural racism in healthcare?" Following widespread protests in the medical community, the Journal took down the podcast and deleted the tweet.
"The comments on the podcast were inaccurate, offensive, hurtful and not up to JAMA's standards," said Dr. Bauchner in a statement released a week later. "We're making changes that fix these types of errors and prevent them from happening again."
Dr. Livingston later resigned, and the A.M.A. Dr. Bauchner on March 25th.
The JAMA magazine family, under the direction of Dr. Bauchner added four new titles and expanded them to include podcasts, videos and new, shorter article types. However, critics noted that the journals rarely dealt with structural racism in medicine, and were more likely to publish articles that linked health differences to socio-economic or biological factors.
Dr. Bauchner's exit offered the magazines a chance to improve, said Dr. Mary Bassett, professor of health and human rights practice at Harvard University.
"Medical journals helped develop the racist idea that races have intrinsic differences that affect health," said Dr. Bassett. Magazines are “challenged to accept racism as a health problem and not just to accept it”.
Dr. Bauchner told the New York Times last month that JAMA had "published more than 100 articles on topics such as social determinants of health, health care disparities and structural racism" in the past five years. He also noted that JAMA only accepted a tiny fraction of the manuscripts received.
He said in Tuesday's statement that his resignation would better serve the diary. "The best path for the JAMA network, and for me personally, is to create an opportunity for new leadership at JAMA," he said.
In an editorial published Tuesday in JAMA, colleagues at the magazine praised Dr. Bauchner and said he left "an indelible legacy of progress, innovation and excellence in medical journalism".
The A.M.A. said there was a search for Dr. Bauchner's replacement started. The editor-in-chief of the magazine, Dr. Phil Fontanarosa, will act as interim editor-in-chief.
Whoever the new editor may be, he or she must acknowledge the profound impact of structural racism on health outcomes for color communities, said Dr. Bassett.
"Racism works in a structural way and not just as a result of ignorant, misguided or even racist people," she added. “Since a new editor-in-chief is being sought, there is an opportunity for JAMA to smash this idea. I hope they get it. "