Bauchner Out as JAMA Editor-in-Chief


In the wake of a controversy centered on structural racism in medicine, Howard Bauchner, MD, is relinquishing his post as editor-in-chief of JAMA and the JAMA Network, the American Medical Association (AMA) announced.

Bauchner’s resignation will be effective June 30, 2021. He took the job about a decade ago, in 2011.

In March, Bauchner was put on on administrative leave pending an investigation into a heavily criticized podcast and an accompanying tweet about structural racism in medicine.

In a statement emailed to media by the AMA, Bauchner said he was “profoundly disappointed in myself for the lapses that led to the publishing of the tweet and podcast. Although I did not write or even see the tweet, or create the podcast, as editor in chief, I am ultimately responsible for them.”

“I share and have always supported the AMA’s commitment to dismantling structural racism in the institutions of American medicine, as evident by numerous publications in JAMA on this issue and related subjects, and look forward to personally contributing to that work going forward,” the statement continued. “To advance equity in medicine, my contributions will be best accomplished in other venues.”

“The best path forward for the JAMA Network, and for me personally, is to create an opportunity for new leadership at JAMA,” the statement said. “I’m grateful for having had the privilege to serve as editor of JAMA for 10 years and to build a substantial foundation for the future. I will miss the sheer joy, exhilaration and intellectual stimulation that being editor in chief has been and the people I have worked with and met the last 10 years. I thank them all.”

The controversy arose over a Feb. 24 JAMA Network podcast — which was later deleted — in which host and then-JAMA Deputy Editor Edward Livingston, MD, said, “Structural racism is an unfortunate term. Personally, I think taking racism out of the conversation will help. Many of us are offended by the concept that we are racist.”

A tweet promoting the podcast — which was also deleted — stated, “No physician is racist, so how can there be structural racism in health care?”

On March 4, internal medicine resident Shirlene Obuobi, MD, posted a Twitter thread outlining several criticisms of the episode, which echoed loudly around #medtwitter.

Aletha Maybank, MD, MPH, chief health equity officer at the AMA, tweeted that the podcast and tweet were actually “a demonstration of structural & institutional racism. I am furious.”

Bauchner subsequently posted an apology on Twitter, and posted an audio apology in place of the deleted podcast. Livingston resigned the following week.

A request for comment from the AMA on the findings of the investigation was not returned as of press time.

AMA said in its statement that Executive Editor Phil Fontanarosa, MD, will continue to serve as interim editor-in-chief until a replacement is found.

The organization launched a search committee for that editor, and it will be led by Otis Brawley, MD, of Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, who has previously served as the chief science and medical officer and executive vice president of the American Cancer Society. Brawley twice chaired the search committee for that society’s journal, Cancer.

  • Kristina Fiore leads MedPage’s enterprise & investigative reporting team. She’s been a medical journalist for more than a decade and her work has been recognized by Barlett & Steele, AHCJ, SABEW, and others. Send story tips to Follow

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