Dr. Patrice A. Harris, a Bluefield native, was inaugurated Tuesday as the 174th president of the American Medical Association (AMA).
Harris, who received her medical degree from the West Virginia University School of Medicine, became the first African American woman to hold the office.
A release from the AMA said Harris, now a psychiatrist from Atlanta, will focus her tenure on these strategic arcs — attacking the dysfunction in health care by removing obstacles and burdens that interfere with patient care; driving the future of medicine by reimagining medical education, training and lifelong learning; promoting innovation to tackle the biggest challenges in health care; and leading the charge to confront the chronic disease crisis and improve the health of the nation.
Harris will continue to serve as chair of the AMA Opioid Task Force, the release said, which she has chaired since its inception in 2014. She will work to elevate the importance of mental health as a part of overall health, health equity and improving the diversity of the physician workforce, and the impact of childhood trauma on health.
“We face big challenges in health care today, and the decisions we make now will move us forward in a future we help create,” Harris said. “We are no longer at a place where we can tolerate the disparities that plague communities of color, women, and the LGBTQ community.
"But we are not yet at a place where health equity is achieved in those communities. We are no longer at a place where underrepresented groups are not welcome in medicine; but we are not yet at a place where underrepresented groups are entering, or graduating, from medical schools at the rates of their peers.
"The saying ‘if you can see it, you can believe it’ is true. And I hope to be tangible evidence for young girls and young boys and girls from communities of color that you can aspire to be a physician. Not only that, you can aspire to be a leader in organized medicine.”
Harris was first elected to the AMA Board of Trustees in 2011, and has held the executive offices of AMA board secretary and AMA board chair. She has been active on several other AMA task forces and committees on health information technology, payment and delivery reform, and private contracting.
Harris has also chaired the influential AMA Council on Legislation and co-chaired the Women Physicians Congress.
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