The Journal of the American Medical Association and JAMA Network on Monday named Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo as its new editor-in-chief, effective July 1.
The University of California, San Francisco, epidemiology professor and inaugural vice dean for population health and health equity at the UCSF School of Medicine takes over for Dr. Phil Fontanarosa, who has served as interim top editor since March 2021.
Fontanarosa replaced former editor-in-chief Dr. Howard Bauchner, who stepped down in June.
Here are five things to know about Bibbins-Domingo and her new role:
- Bauchner resigned after a controversy. JAMA hosted a podcast episode called “Structural Racism for Doctors: What is it?” that aired February 2021 featuring a discussion between then-JAMA Deputy Editor Dr. Edward Livingston and Dr. Mitchell Katz, an editor at JAMA Internal Medicine and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals. Livingston, who has since resigned, called structural racism an “unfortunate term” and supported “taking racism out of the conversation.” A now-deleted tweet promoting the podcast said, “No physician is racist, so how can there be structural racism in medicine?” The podcast sparked a petition from the Institute for Antiracism in Medicine calling for an independent investigation into Bauchner’s leadership, a more diverse leadership team, the hiring of a deputy editor with a focus on antiracism and health equity and town hall sessions on the subject.
- She is the first person of color named top editor. During a news conference announcing her appointment, Bibbins-Domingo said she applauded several important changes JAMA made as a result of the controversy. Those changes “started at the top with leadership,” involved large swaths of the organization and made sure there is diversity in the way editors, reviewers and authors are solicited and shape the content, she said. “Medicine unfortunately, like many of the large institutions in the U.S., has often been slow to embrace racism as a part of its own history and failed to recognize that all of us are shaped by these forces that are so deeply rooted in our American history. The entire scientific and medical enterprise has been plagued by the inability to acknowledge these important forces that shape the health of patients.”
- She was a member of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force from 2010 to 2017, where she led its editorial process. She joined the task force when it was “embroiled in controversy,” after recommending that mammograms should not be done routinely for all women age 40 to 49 years. The task force learned the audience for science is much broader than just doctors, Bibbins-Domingo said during the news conference. “It is the patients, it is patient advocacy groups, it is policymakers, it is the subspecialty physicians, it’s the other medical professionals. The task force … put the communication lens front and center in the process, as well as the engagement of stakeholders.”
- Bibbins-Domingo’s career initially focused on biochemistry. She earned a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from Princeton University.
- Her research has focused on COVID-19 vaccine distribution equity, excess mortality stemming from the pandemic, integrating social care into clinical interventions, racial differences in heart failure among young adults and the correlation between the exhaustion of subsidized food budgets and hospital admissions, among other topics.