The American Medical Association has removed a public display of its founder and taken his name off of one of its most prestigious annual awards as the organization seeks to reconcile its past discriminatory practices as part of its efforts to address systemic racism as a public health threat.
In an opinion editorial posted to its website on Wednesday, American Medical Association CEO Dr. James Madara called the moving of a bust and display of Dr. Nathan Davis from public view at its Chicago headquarters to its archives a necessary step toward reconciling the AMA's past actions of discrimination. Women and Black doctors were barred from joining its ranks until the 1960s.
The AMA also took Davis's name off of its annual award program to recognize elected officials and career government agency professionals for outstanding government service that "promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health." The awards will be known as the American Medical Association Awards for Outstanding Government Service moving forward.
Madara said the decision by the AMA Board of Trustees to remove Davis's name from the award was out of a desire to focus more on the attributes of the awardee rather than a historical name. But Madara acknowledged the removal of Davis's public display came out of a need to recognize his contributions from a historical perspective that did not celebrate his discriminatory actions.
"We wanted to acknowledge that Dr. Davis played a role in AMA history that allowed racism within the medical profession," Madara said. "You hate to judge people from two centuries ago by today's standards — but by that day's standards he was on the wrong side of the argument."