Editor Of Top Medical Journal Finally Ousted After Tweet Questioning ‘Structural Racism In Healthcare’

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Marlo Safi Culture Reporter
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The editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), one of the most prestigious medical research journals in the country, is leaving the publication after the journal promoted a podcast that questioned whether there was “structural racism” in healthcare, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

Howard Bauchner, who has edited the journal since 2011, has been on administrative leave since March, when he faced backlash after the journal tweeted, “No physician is racist, so how can there be structural racism in health care?” The American Medical Association (AMA), which oversees the journal, said the incident was being reviewed at the time, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). 

The tweet was promoting an episode that a top editor at the publication Edward Livingston hosted, WSJ reported. During the episode, he reportedly said “Many people like myself are offended by the implication that we are somehow racist.”

Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, who heads a minority affairs group at AMA, said the tweet and podcast “felt like a dagger to the heart to those of us who’ve worked so hard to get that work done,’’ referring to addressing racism, according to The Associated Press (AP).

The Institute for Antiracism in Medicine called for a review of Bauchner’s handling of the incident, and garnered more than 9,000 signatures on a petition that made the demand, according to the WSJ. (RELATED: ‘Disadvantage Index’ Considered For COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution In Oregon)

“I remain profoundly disappointed in myself for the lapses that led to the publishing of the tweet and podcast,” Bauchner said in a statement, according to The AP. ‘’Although I did not write or even see the tweet, or create the podcast, as editor-in-chief, I am ultimately responsible for them.’’

The podcast episode and tweet were deleted and the podcast was replaced with a recording of Bauchner apologizing for the comments, the WSJ reported. 

“Comments made in the podcast were inaccurate, offensive, and hurtful, and inconsistent with the standards of JAMA,” Bauchner said. “Racism and structural racism exist in the United States, and in healthcare.”

“After careful consideration, I determined that the harms caused by the podcast outweighed any reason for the podcast to remain available on the JAMA Network. I once again apologize for the harms caused by this podcast and the tweet about the podcast,” he added. 

His departure is reportedly effective June 30.

According to an AP report from March, a deputy editor who appeared in the podcast later resigned at Bauchner’s request, and the journal created a position for someone with expertise on racism in healthcare.

Some have said Bauchner’s departure isn’t enough to change JAMA. Dr. Raymond Givens, a New York cardiologist who has pushed for more racial diversity at the journal, said time would tell whether Bauchner’s departure would lead to changes at the publication, The AP reported.

“Without diversity, you don’t know what you don’t know,” Givens previously said, according to The AP. “With such a non-diverse panel of people, you have all these blind spots that allow these podcasts to go from execution to publication without anybody saying, ‘Wait a minute, this is ill-advised.’”

JAMA did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.