Editorial, Letter to the Editor, Opinion Pieces Address AMA’s Recent Apology to Black Doctors for Past Discrimination
The following summarizes an editorial, opinion pieces and a letter to the editor that address the American Medical Association's recent apology to black doctors for past racial discrimination.
South Florida Sun- Sentinel: AMA "should be commended for finally owning up to policies that excluded blacks from the organization for more than a century," a Sun-Sentinel editorial states, adding, "But a mea culpa is worthless without action to back it up, and there is plenty the esteemed medical association can do to make amends." According to the Sun-Sentinel, AMA already has begun initiatives that "should help make the apology more than just words." For example, the organization has created the Minority Affairs Consortium, which aims to train more minority physicians through scholarships and other programs, and it also has partnered with the National Medical Association and the National Hispanic Medical Association to address racial health disparities. These "good gestures" can help AMA "begin the healing with concrete measures to help bridge the divide" that was created by a history of "racial inequality," the editorial states, concluding, "It's time to go beyond apologies and break the barriers down" (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 7/22).
- Howard Wolinsky/Alan Blum, Chicago Sun-Times: "Since the AMA is in an apologetic mood, we think it is high time for the doctors' organization to apologize for the role it played in the deadly tobacco pandemic," Wolinsky -- a former medical reporter for the Sun-Times and co-author of "The Serpent on the Staff: The Unhealthy Politics of the American Medical Association," and Blum, director of the University of Alabama Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society -- write in a Sun-Times opinion piece. For decades, AMA "put its support behind the tobacco industry's efforts" by failing to take a stand on the dangers of smoking, the authors say. As a result, "hundreds of thousands of people, including disproportionately high numbers of African-Americans, died and were disabled from smoking-related illnesses," according to the opinion piece. Such an apology that acknowledges AMA's past biased policies would "really clear the air," Wolinsky and Blum write (Wolinsky/Blum, Chicago Sun-Times, 7/21).
- Kate Scannell, Contra Costa Times: "Because the AMA was such a powerful influence in shaping national health policy, its refusal to force its subsidiary societies to include black physicians translated into less health care advocacy for African-American patients on the big stages of politics and media," Scannell, a Costa Times columnist writes, adding that to some, the "direct effects" of AMA's policies -- African-Americans receiving inferior health care -- make its apology "'too little, too late.'" Scannell adds, "The AMA's apology will need to be tied to actions that visibly correct some of its transgressions if it is to gain credible traction in public sentiment and within the broader medical community. It will also have to acknowledge its historical discrimination against other groups of physicians, like women, if it hopes to present itself as a united associate of doctors that believes that invidious discrimination against all classes of people is wrong" (Scannell, Contra Costa Times, 7/19).
Letter to the Editor
Ronald Davis, Baltimore Sun: AMA remains "committed to eliminating health care disparities, increasing diversity in the physician population and improving our relationship with minority physicians," Davis, former president of AMA, writes in a Sun letter to the editor. Davis writes that AMA "recognizes that words alone do not remove the stain of past discrimination," but the apology and several already implemented initiatives "can help promote healing and propel us forward in our efforts to close the racial divide in health care" (Davis, Baltimore Sun, 7/24). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.