First Female Psychiatrist Named President-Elect of the AMA

Deborah Brauser

June 12, 2018

The new president-elect of the American Medical Association (AMA) will be just the fourth psychiatrist to ever hold the position as well as the first female psychiatrist and the first African American woman to do so.

Dr Patrice Harris

Patrice Harris, MD, adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, will be taking the reins of the AMA in June 2019. She was elected to the new position earlier today at the annual meeting of the AMA House of Delegates in Chicago, Illinois.

"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," Harris said in a press release from the AMA.

"I am committed to preserving the central role of the physician-patient relationship in our healing art," she added.

Harris is currently the chair of the AMA's Opioid Task Force. In addition, she has served on the organization's board of trustees since 2011, including stints as secretary from 2014 to 2015 and chair from 2016 to 2017. She has also served on the board of trustees of the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

"I'm elated," current President of the APA Altha Stewart, MD, said in a statement. "This is a great day for the APA and for psychiatry. The APA board of trustees looks forward to continuing to work with her as both organizations collaborate to increase patient access to care and improve the practice of medicine."

Saul Levin, MD, CEO and medical director of the APA, said in the same statement that the organization is "delighted" to have Harris "leading the house of medicine as president-elect of the AMA.

"Her election demonstrates how psychiatrists can be leaders in medicine. We look forward to working with Dr Harris on continued advocacy for improving the quality of care and integrating psychiatry and mental health within medicine," added Levin.

Psychiatrist of the Year

Harris is a practicing psychiatrist with a focus on child/adolescent and forensics psychiatry. Previously, she was the director of health services in Fulton County, Georgia, and the head of the Fulton County Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.

In addition, she was the founding president of the Georgia Psychiatry Political Action Committee and was named Psychiatrist of the Year in 2007 by the Georgia Psychiatric Physicians Association.

The last psychiatrist to be named president of the AMA was Jeremy A. Lazarus, MD, Denver, Colorado, in 2012. That ended a 73-year dry spell for psychiatrists holding the AMA's top spot. Rock Sleyster, MD, held the position in 1939. The organization was founded in 1847.

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