JAMA Taps Health Equity Champion Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo as Editor-in-Chief

Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo_UC San Francisco

Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo/Courtesy UC San Francisco

Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a cardiologist and health equity champion, will be the new editor-in-chief of The Journal of the American Medical Association. When she takes over on July 1, Bibbins-Domingo will become the first African American to helm the prestigious medical journal.

She takes over from Phil Fontanarosa, who has served as interim editor after longtime editor Howard Bauchner stepped down from the role. Bibbins-Domingo is the Lee Goldman Endowed Professor of Medicine and chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the UCSF School of Medicine. There, she serves as a general internist and cardiovascular disease epidemiologist.

Bibbins-Domingo has been a vocal proponent of health equity, particularly over the past few years during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. At UCSF, Bibbins-Domingo served as the inaugural vice dean for population health and health equity and co-founded the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. 

Bibbins-Domingo formally takes over the editor role at JAMA on July 1. She will draw on her own experience helming the editorial process and systemic review of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. In that role, she was responsible for examining the evidence in publications, the authorship of clinical guidelines, as well as other publication requirements. 

She joins JAMA after the publication was mired in controversy over a podcast that raised questions about whether or not structural racism exists in medicine. The podcast suggested that no physician could harbor racist views, and the backlash was immediate as the podcast was roundly decried by many members of the medical community. 

Alluding to doubts about scientific integrity raised by skeptics during the pandemic, Bibbins-Domingo said “a trusted voice for science, medicine, and public health has never been more important.” She said JAMA and the JAMA Network is an “unparalleled platform” for the best science to be shared with a global audience and that the publication can advance the discussion of new ideas that will shape global health. 

“I couldn’t be more excited to join as editor-in-chief,” she said. “This is an extraordinary time for science, medicine and public health - one where the possibilities for accelerating advancements in human health seem limitless, while deep challenges to achieving optimal health for all seem intractable.”

Bibbins-Domingo began her career as a biochemist in the laboratory of Nobel Prize-winning scientist Harold Varmus, who went on to head the National Institutes of Health. 

James L. Madara, chief executive officer of the American Medical Association, expressed excitement about the addition of Bibbins-Domingo. Madara said Bibbins-Domingo will lead JAMA into a “new era of publishing the groundbreaking research that is shaping the future of medicine and science.” He touted her credentials as a physician and scholar and also pointed to her expertise in cardiovascular research and health equity, which Madara noted were two areas of critical importance to JAMA. 

“I am confident Dr. Bibbins-Domingo – with her remarkable professional background ranging from basic science to an array of scholarly approaches to clinical studies – will effectively advance JAMA’s mission that accelerates clinical research into practice at this critical time in health care in the U.S. and in global public health,” Madara said in a statement. 

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