American Medical Association removes references to founder over racist history

The American Medical Association removed a public bust and display honoring the organization's founder Nathan Davis as it reckons with racism Davis exhibited during his career.

AMA President and CEO James Madura, M.D., said he'd passed the exhibit in AMA's Chicago headquarters honoring Davis for years without giving it much thought.

But the national conversation about systemic racism in the U.S. prompted him to "reflect on the man and ask myself if his actions represent our newly embraced equity values of the AMA and of organized medicine. The answer is clearly no," Madura wrote. 

Specifically, Madura wrote, while Davis was a "seminal figure" in the creation of the AMA and was the founding editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, he was also behind a move to explicitly exclude women and Black physicians from representation in its House of Delegates.

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Madura said the AMA is also removing Davis' name from an award the association gives annually to honor individuals for outstanding government service.

"We can’t erase history, but we can decide the appropriate way to recognize individuals from our past," Madura said. "These are two small but necessary steps toward reconciling the AMA’s past and laying the groundwork for our future."

In 2020, the AMA's board approved a statement formally denouncing police brutality and all forms of racially motivated violence and called racism as a serious threat to public health.

The AMA also said it would "actively work" to dismantle racist and discriminatory policies and practices across all of healthcare.

In 2018, AMA's House of Delegates adopted policy and a strategic framework for addressing health equity on a national scale, The AMA hired its first chief health equity officer to establish the AMA Center for Health Equity in 2019.