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APA Member Patrice Harris, M.D., Inaugurated AMA’s 174th President

Friday, June 14, 2019  
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“We are no longer at a place where those with mental illness and addiction are hidden and ignored, but we are not yet at a place where mental disorders are viewed without stigma and truly integrated into health care,” said long-time APA member Patrice A. Harris, M.D., M.A., in her address last night after her inauguration as the AMA’s 174th president.

Harris, a former member of the APA Board of Trustees, was sworn in during a ceremony at the AMA’s House of Delegates meeting in Chicago. Administering the oath of office was Jack Resnick, M.D., chair of the AMA Board of Trustees.

Harris, who is the first African American woman president of the AMA, said during her address that diversity and inclusion are critical to closing the gap in health disparities and that a focus of her presidency will be on health equity and increasing the diversity of the physician workforce.

“We face big challenges in health care today, and the decisions we make now will move us forward in a future we help create,” she 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.”

Harris also vowed to elevate mental health as a part of overall health and to increase the understanding of the impact of childhood trauma on health.

During her presidential year, Harris will continue to chair the AMA’s Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse, which she has chaired since its inception in 2014.

Harris served as director of health services in Fulton County, Ga., and head of the Fulton County Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. As chief health officer for Fulton County, she spearheaded efforts to integrate public health, behavioral health, and primary care.

First elected to the AMA Board of Trustees in 2011, she has held the executive offices of AMA board secretary and AMA board chair. In addition to her leadership of the opioid task force, Harris has been active on AMA task forces and committees dealing with such issues as health information technology, payment and delivery reform, and private contracting. She also chaired the influential AMA Council on Legislation and co-chaired the Women Physicians Congress.

She served as trustee-at-large on the APA Board of Trustees from 2001 to 2004. In addition, she was president of the Georgia Psychiatric Physicians Association and founding president of the Georgia Psychiatry Political Action Committee.

APA leaders hailed her election as an important indication of the strength of psychiatry within the House of Delegates. “We look forward to the opportunity to continuing to work with Dr. Harris on many issues, including further collaboration within the house of medicine to improve the quality of care for our patients,” said APA President Bruce Schwartz, M.D.

APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., said, “We are honored and delighted to have a psychiatrist and long-time APA member leading the house of medicine as president of the AMA. Her work over the years at APA and the AMA will add value to her new role as the face of the AMA.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “APA Member Patrice Harris Chosen AMA’s President-Elect.”


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