Ask JAMA (top medical journal) to stop perpetuating racism in medicine

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The following petition calls attention to an important movement in medicine: the need to dismantle institutional structures that purposefully or inadvertently perpetuate racism in medicine. This particular instance relates to one of medicine’s premier medical journals, The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA). We call attention to this issue and ask for your support because the lives of all patients are at risk if the medical structures that provide care fail to actively name racism as a public health challenge and to commit to antiracist action.  

On February 24, 2021 JAMA Network Learning released a podcast entitled: “Structural Racism for Doctors - What Is it?” This review was subsequently promoted via the official JAMA twitter handle with the following descriptive statement: “No physician is racist, so how can there be structural racism in health care?”. 

The podcast and associated promotional message are extremely problematic for minoritized members of our medical community. Racism was created with intention and must therefore be undone with intention. Structural racism has deeply permeated the field of medicine and must be actively dissolved through proper antiracist education and purposeful equitable policy creation. The delivery of messages suggesting that racism is non-existent and therefore non-problematic within the medical field is harmful to both our underrepresented minoritized physicians and the marginalized communities served in this country. 

As members, representatives, and allies of the underrepresented in the medical community, signatured participants of this letter urge JAMA to implement change that will immediately address JAMA’s failed message to the medical community.

JAMA’s key objective is to promote the science and art of medicine and the betterment of public health. The release of this podcast blatantly contradicts JAMA’s cited objective. It is imperative that the executive leadership of JAMA act to rectify this harmful incident and examine the infrastructural makeup that allowed this podcast to pass many stages of evaluation before release.

It is crucial that the current editor-in-chief, Howard Bauchner MD, use his authority to further promote antiracist publications within JAMA. Inaction is inexcusable and will hinder the healthcare community’s efforts to intentionally dismantle racism within medicine. The future of antiracism in medicine must be supported and promoted by highly influential organizations such as JAMA.

We, the undersigned, are opposed to JAMA’s current editorial organization. We call on JAMA to do the following:

  1. Formal review of the leadership displayed by Dr. Howard Bauchner as editor-in-chief, including actions suggesting a failure to diversify the editorial staff and/or displaying blatantly discriminatory behavior patterns.
  2.  Restructure the editorial staff as follows: 
    • Hire a Deputy Editor with a dedicated focus on antiracism and health equity.  
    • Establish a transparent evaluation of the current editorial processes to ensure a balanced, fair and equitable approach to all content and in particular, that relating to race and racism. 
  3. Schedule a series of town hall conversations with Black, Indigenous and People of Color patients, health care staff and allies to ensure restorative justice, as representative of JAMA’s re-commitment to centering antiracism in its mission.


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