Ronald Davis, M.D., the immediate past president of the American Medical Association, died Thursday at his home outside East Lansing, Mich. Davis, a 52-year-old preventive-medicine specialist, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in February.
When he announced his condition to the AMA board, Davis also announced his intention to be open about his health and treatment. His personal Web site on CarePages.com was accessible to the public, and he received more than 1,000 messages of support. (Registration is required to access the site, but it is free. After registering, click on the visit tab and enter rondavis with no spaces.)
His condition was made even more public when he addressed the AMAs annual House of Delegates meeting in June. Noting how he had lost his hair after chemotherapy, Davis joked that men have three basic hairstyles: Parted, unparted and departed.
A benefit of being a physician is that I understand whats happening to me, he told the delegates. But a disadvantage of being a physician is that I understand whats happening to me. As a physician, I know the survival statistics for someone with stage IV pancreatic cancer, but, if the five-year survival is 5%, thats not zero. So never take away someones hope.
During his address, he also called on doctors to promote their patients health by promoting a healthier planet and asked, Why shouldnt physicians be the loudest advocates for a safe and healthy world?
A month later, Davis was the spokesman for the AMAs apology for the organizations past history of racial inequality toward African-American physicians. The apology was accepted by the countrys oldest and largest African-American physician group, the National Medical Association, and Davis noted that there was more work to do.
We have apologized for the wrongs that have been uncovered, and we want to heal and strengthen our relationship with African-American physicians and the organizations that represent them, and work toward a future where there is no prejudice in healthcare and we have as much diversity in healthcare as we do in the general population, he said.
Davis had been the director of the Detroit-based Henry Ford Health Systems Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention since 1995. He was also the founding editor of Tobacco Control, a journal published by the British Medical Association.
He is survived by his wife, Nadine, and three sons. -- by Andis Robeznieks