The American Medical Association (AMA) made history recently with the appointment of its first African American president. Patrice A. Harris M.D., M.A., a psychiatrist from Atlanta, delivered her inaugural address after being sworn in last week, which focused on her goals for the upcoming year.
Harris received her medical degree from West Virginia School of Medicine completed a psychiatry residency and child psychiatry fellowship at Emory University School of Medicine. She was first elected into the AMA board of trustees in 2011 and has held the positions of AMA board secretary and AMA board chair. Not only does she consult patients with public and private organizations, she also organized efforts to integrate public health, behavioral health and primary care services.
As the 174th president of the AMA, Harris emphasized the importance of working as a community, diversity and inclusion, and providing health care for all. “Health, in all its dimensions, is a basic human right,” Harris said in her speech.
Harris succeeded Barbara L. McAneny, M.D., and earlier this year, Susan R. Bailey M.D. served as president-elect. This is the first time in the association’s history that women have held all three presidential positions at the same time. This diversity, Harris says, is a unifying strength that will benefit the AMA. “Our diversity is the source of our strength as we face medicines most daunting challenges,” says Harris.
Harris hopes that by the end of her presidency the world will end the opioid epidemic and alliances across the national will remove barriers to treat those with substance abuse disorders. Other goals Harris has for the year are mental health equality, increased health equity, and prior-authorization reform.
In the closing portion of her speech, Harris stated, “when we all join together, bringing our differing perspectives, backgrounds, experiences, and resources to bear that's when we can truly move medicine forward for the good of our patients, the profession, the nation and the world.”
Watch Harris's full inauguration speech below: