Accompanied by a gospel choir and ballads sung by Roberta Flack, the American Medical Association installed Lonnie R. Bristow, M.D., as its first African-American president last week in Chicago.
Bristow, an internist from San Pablo, Calif., has been active with the AMA since 1958. He entered the House of Delegates in 1981 and has served on the board of trustees since 1985. From 1990 to 1993 he was an AMA commissioner with the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.
He had served one year as AMA's president-elect and will serve a one-year term as president.
In addition to being the AMA's first black president, he is the first president selected from the ranks of a specialty organization, the American Society of Internal Medicine, of which he is a former president. Most AMA delegates come from state medical societies.
Bristow, 65, is a native of Harlem and got his M.D. from the New York University College of Medicine in 1957. He intends to devote his year in office to increasing unity within the profession, raising standards of professionalism, and helping doctors to better communicate their ideas to the public.
The annual House of Delegates meeting also chose Daniel H. Johnson Jr., M.D., as president-elect. Johnson, a professor of radiology and otolaryngology at Tulane University in New Orleans, is the popular outgoing speaker of the House of Delegates. His successor as speaker is Richard F. Corlin, M.D., a gastroenterologist from Santa Monica, Calif. John A. Knote, M.D., a radiologist from Lafayette, Ind., is the new vice speaker.
In addition to Bristow, the board of trustees will have a second African-American this year. She is Regina Benjamin, M.D., the only doctor in Bayou La Batre, Ala.
Benjamin, 38, is the board's first "young physician" member, a position created to gain the perspective of doctors under 40. The age and complexion of the AMA leadership has been of some concern to the organization. In 1993 a study determined that the median age of AMA delegates was 63, while the median age of the membership was 46.