“I believe our American Medical Association has well-crafted policy concerning the changing health care environment in this country,” Harris said in an address to the House following her election. “It will be my honor to represent our AMA in the venues where important issues will be debated. I am committed to preserving the central role of the physician-patient relationship in our healing art.”
Harris is the first African-American woman to hold the office.
Harris served on the AMA Board of Trustees beginning in 2011 and served as secretary for the 2014-2015 term and as chair of the board for the 2016-2017 term. As a practicing psychiatrist trained in child/adolescent and forensic psychiatry, she consults with both public and private organizations on health service delivery. She is also chair of the AMA Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse and is an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University.
“I’m elated that Dr. Harris has been elected president of the AMA,” said APA President Altha Stewart, M.D. “This is a great day for 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.”
Harris previously served as the director of health services in Fulton County, Ga., and the 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. She is a past president of the Georgia Psychiatric Physicians Association.
“We are delighted to have a psychiatrist and a former APA Board of Trustees member leading the house of medicine as president-elect of the AMA,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “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.”