People

American Medical Association’s barrier-breaking new president speaks at Baylor College of Medicine

Patrice Harris, M.D., is the first Black woman to lead the nation's oldest and largest medical association


By Cindy George | June 25, 2019

Patrice Harris, M.D., added to her list of accomplishments this month when she became the first Black woman to serve as president of the American Medical Association.

Rising to lead the nation’s oldest and largest medical association, founded in 1847, makes her “tangible evidence” of possibilities despite obstacles, she said during an interview this month at Baylor College of Medicine, just one week after her installation.

“During my inaugural speech, I talked about being a sum of my parts—all of who I am: African American, a woman, a psychiatrist, born and raised in coal country with a strong family background,” Harris said.

That address explored the AMA’s top three priorities: Attacking dysfunction in health care, driving the future of medicine—namely through medical education—and improving health outcomes by preventing chronic disease and confronting health crises.

“They don’t change with each presidency,” Harris noted. “Each president brings their own unique lens to the work of the AMA.”

Harris, an Atlanta-area physician and educator,  was born and raised in the small town of Bluefield, West Virginia. She earned three degrees at West Virginia University before her residency and fellowships at Emory University in Georgia.

She didn’t meet a Black female physician until after she finished her undergraduate degree.

“The road hasn’t been easy. I don’t want anyone to think that it has been without struggle and challenges,” Harris said. “Sometimes, we make things look too easy and then our younger generations think everything is a straight line.”

She advocates developing coping skills to manage those times when others undervalue and presume.

“Breathe and know that you are enough,” she said. “There are times you speak up. You know who you are. You know your value. You require respect. You do have to build that support system. … Be authentic and speak truth to power.”

Harris, who maintains close ties to Appalachia, led the AMA’s efforts to end the opioid epidemic. She has chaired the AMA Opioid Task Force since its inception in 2014 and will retain that role during her presidential tenure.

Harris visited Baylor College of Medicine on June 18, 2019, for its Center of Excellence in Health Equity, Training and Research’s annual Summer Research Summit and delivered the keynote speech entitled “Physician Leadership in Shaping the Future of Health Care in America.” Other AMA areas of advocacy include health equity, parity for mental health disorders and strengthening the diversity of the medical school pipeline, she noted.

“Are we getting the results? Is anybody evaluating that? What’s working, what’s not working and where do we need to improve?” she said in addressing those issues in the interview.

Harris explored solutions by viewing Center of Excellence poster presentations by Baylor undergraduates, post-baccalaureate students, medical students, clinical fellows and junior faculty.

According to her AMA biography, the organization’s new president is a distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association who continues in private practice and currently consults with both public and private organizations on health service delivery and emerging trends in practice and health policy. In addition, she is an adjunct assistant professor in Emory’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and an adjunct clinical assistant professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Morehouse School of Medicine.

As the 174th president of the AMA, Harris serves close to 250,000 members.




Social Posts

profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

Despite facing stage IV #breastcancer, Alex Frenzel is trying to make things better for other patients through research and fundraising. Here’s her story: https://t.co/tEj4KP3xh7 @BootWalk #endcancer

37 mins ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Veterans receive warm welcome home at QC Airport after Honor Flight https://t.co/iLhV4WuPDB via @wqad

1 hour ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

New findings by a team led by our @ChapinMD could lead to changes in surgical planning that improve outcomes for some #prostatecancer patients. #endcancer https://t.co/PsemSoS4dK

2 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

This month, we are highlighting some of our prostate cancer clinical trials. Learn how you can be a part of one. https://t.co/wTpBn3fdy6 #prostatecancer #prostatecancerawarenessmonth https://t.co/IzdGDPsAf7

2 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

Seven years ago, Ritchie Johnson lost her son Chris to a rare form of #kidneycancer. Now, she’s channeling her grief to help others: https://t.co/SdVWqKPsUk @PavlosMsaouel #endcancer

3 hours ago
profile_image

CHI St. Luke's Health

@CHI_StLukes

From whitening teeth to preventing hangovers, it may seem like there isn’t anything #ActivatedCharcoal can’t do. But is there enough clinical evidence to back up the majority of claims made about it? Find out: https://t.co/6CQ4mG8gCO https://t.co/GunFP0PMI2

3 hours ago
profile_image

UTHealth

@UTHealth

More than a dozen students at @McGovernMed gathered in Webber Plaza today, standing in unity to end the public health crisis on the firearms epidemic. This was part of a nationwide event organized by the national organization SAFE – Scrubs Against the Firearm Epidemic. #StandSAFE https://t.co/MIcScQr8zA

3 hours ago
profile_image

UTHealth

@UTHealth

RT @uthpsychiatry: Today is the final day to register online for the 2019 Houston Mood Disorders Conference. After today, registration will…

3 hours ago
profile_image

UTHealth

@UTHealth

RT @UTH_CVSurgery: This Friday, 9/20, #GrandRounds by The legend himself, Dr. Hazim Safi! Topic: “Founding new Department is not a dinner…

3 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Navy Veteran Chris Paulsen may have a prosthetic leg, but that doesn't stop him from doing what he loves to do. "I golf, I bowl, I climb... I live life." https://t.co/r5C0LBG51s via #VAntagePoint

3 hours ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

BREAK. THE. RECORD.@RiceVolleyball is looking to make history when Texas visits Tudor Fieldhouse on Wednesday.Be a part of it all by setting a new attendance record and having your name etched in the history books. https://t.co/QZzJv40QEU

4 hours ago
profile_image

Memorial Hermann

@memorialhermann

Is food or #fitness more important in weight loss? Our experts have the answer: https://t.co/YWjZfHU9KE. #healthyliving https://t.co/pLtAd2T2hm

4 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

RT @TexasChildrens: Dr. David Poplack, a developer of the Passport for Care program and associate director of Texas Children's Cancer and H…

4 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

RT @BCMHoustonJobs: Interested in a job in #Houston, TX? This could be a great fit: https://t.co/7JEtEEH8M4

4 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Post-9/11 Veterans more likely than others to benefit financially from military service https://t.co/zN9PftTfeS via @shawncarterm

4 hours ago