Harris will be AMA's first black female president-elect
CHICAGO—Dr. Patrice Harris will become the first-ever black woman to lead the country's largest physician organization. She was elected as the next president of the American Medical Association on Tuesday during the organization's House of Delegates annual meeting. Harris will take her office next year.
Harris' victory was met with a standing ovation by the room of delegates in recognition of both the historical significance of the moment, as well as the years of service Harris has provided to the AMA.
First elected to AMA's board of trustees in 2011, Harris most recently was the group's point person on the opioid epidemic. She led its task force to develop such initiatives as an alternative payment model to give more physicians incentives to treat opioid addiction.
"It will be my honor to represent the nation's physicians at the forefront of discussions when policymakers and lawmakers search for practical solutions to the challenges in our nation's health system. I am committed to preserving the central role of the physician-patient relationship in our healing art," Harris said.
She has served as a member of the American Psychiatric Association's board of trustees and is a past president of the Georgia Psychiatric Physicians Association. She currently works in private practice and served for a decade as chief health officer for Fulton County, Ga., until she retired in 2015.
But that tenure carried controversy. Months prior to her retirement, Harris faced criticism over the county's alleged mishandling of $28 million in federal HIV grant funding that resulted in her department being forced to return nearly $9 million.
Harris received her medical degree from the West Virginia University School of Medicine and completed a psychiatry residency and child psychiatry fellowship at Emory University School of Medicine. In 2007, Harris was inducted into the West Virginia University Academy of Distinguished Alumni.
Her election to the AMA's leadership will mark the second year that a woman will head the organization. Harris will succeed oncologist Dr. Barbara McAneny, who is scheduled to be inducted as AMA president on Tuesday afternoon.
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