As docs join protests across the country, AMA board pledges action against racism, police brutality

In the face of growing unrest over racial inequality, leadership of the nation's largest group representing physicians pledged action to confront systemic racism and police brutality.  

The American Medical Association's (AMA's) board approved a statement denouncing police brutality and all forms of racially motivated violence. The AMA also said it will "actively work" to dismantle racist and discriminatory policies and practices across all of healthcare.

"While George Floyd's death catapulted police brutality to national conciousness, there are far too many similar incidents that have occurred—some recorded and some not—where people of color and other marginalized and minoritized communities have faced similar oppression and death," said AMA Board Chairman Jesse Ehrenfeld, M.D., in a statement via video.

"As physicians, we must stand in opposition to racism because it truly is a public health emergency," he said. 

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The statement came during a Special Meeting of the AMA House of Delegates, rescheduled to be held virtually rather than its its typical annual forum in Chicago. Last month, the AMA issued a similar statement denouncing police brutality and another pushing for public officials to avoid using xenophobic language amid the COVID-19 crisis. 

Officials also pointed to the hiring of its first chief health equity officer to establish the AMA Center for Health Equity in 2019 among efforts it has taken already.

"The AMA fully understands that there is tremendous work still to be done to ensure that no one is left out and that everyone has the opportunity, conditions, resources, and power to achieve optimal health," officials said in a statement.

As the AMA made its statement, doctors were joining protests in cities around the country. Holding signs such as "white supremacy is a public health crisis," physicians and medical students donned their white coats to lend their support. 

Institutions such as Baylor, Scott & White had health workers "taking a knee" in support for the organization #whitecoatsforblacklives.