Doctors are calling to investigate a prestigious medical journal after it tweeted 'No physician is racist'

  • Doctors launched a petition against The Journal of American Medical Association.
  • The publication’s editor-in-chief apologized after it tweeted “No physician is racist.”
  • The petition calls for further investigation of the editor-in-chief and editorial staff diversity.
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Doctors are calling to investigate one of the country’s most prestigious medical journals. 

The Institute for Antiracism in Medicine, an antiracism group founded by three Black women physicians, launched a petition against The Journal of American Medical Association after the publication tweeted “No physician is racist, so how can there be structural racism in health care?”

JAMA, a peer-reviewed medical journal that dates back to 1883, is the most widely circulated journal in the world, per its website. JAMA’s now deleted tweet promoted a podcast episode where two editors discussed how to talk about racism in medicine.

“Structural racism is an unfortunate term,” JAMA deputy editor Ed Livingston said in the podcast, which has also been deleted, according to The Root. “Personally, I think taking racism out of the conversation will help. Many of us are offended by the concept that we are racist.”

JAMA removed the podcast after Black doctors and other medical experts brought attention to offensive remarks about race in the episode. Editor-in-chief Howard Bauchner released a statement apologizing for the harm caused by the tweet and parts of the podcast.

The petition calls the investigate whether Bauchner failed to diversify editorial staff or discriminated against them. The group is also calling on JAMA to hire a deputy editor dedicated to antiracism and health equity publications, and schedule town halls with Black, Indigenous, and other community members of color. 

The petition had more than 1,600 signatures as of Tuesday morning.

Research suggests racial bias in medicine leads to worse patient care for Black people. A 2016 report found half of white medical students and residents in the study endorsed false beliefs about biological differences among Black and white people, which led to making less accurate treatment recommendations for Black patients.

Doctors and nurses tend to not take Black patients’ pain as seriously as white patients. A national study of nearly one million emergency room visits found Black children had one-fifth the chance of receiving opioid painkillers compared to white children, The Washington Post reported.

The result of decades of racial bias in medicine has led to Black people having less trust in the life-saving COVID-19 vaccine.

Medical institutions in the US have taken some responsibility for the industry’s racial bias, prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic’s outsized impact on Black people and the calls for accountability during the 2020 George Floyd protests.

The American Medical Association recently defined racism as a public health threat. In 2018, AMA had apologized for actively discriminating against Black doctors and barring them from joining medical societies between the 1800s to the 1960s.

JAMA has been revising its editorial style for reporting on race and ethnicity over the last eight months. 

JAMA and the Institute for Antiracism in Medicine were not immediately available for additional comment.

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