AMA hires physician as first chief health equity officer

May 18, 2019

Aletha Maybank, MD, MPH, joins the AMA as chief health equity officer after serving as deputy commissioner and founding director of the Center for Heath Equity as part of New York City’s public health department.

In a renewed effort to stamp out racial bias in patient care and improve other health equity issues, the American Medical Association (AMA) has hired its first chief equity officer.

Aletha Maybank, MD, MPH, joins the AMA after serving as deputy commissioner and founding director of the Center for Heath Equity as part of New York City’s public health department. Maybank will launch the AMA’s Center for Health Equity in her new role. She is a pediatrician board certified in preventive medicine and public health.

According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the term health equity refers to all patients having “a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible.” The term is linked to social determinants of health, the concept that obstacles such as poverty, discrimination, lack of access to jobs, nutritious food, quality housing, safe neighborhoods and good healthcare, can contribute to adverse health outcomes.

The AMA says that Maybank is the perfect person to take on these challenges on behalf of the AMA and its physician members.

“Dr. Maybank has deep expertise and experience in health equity and working with communities of color that have experienced historical disinvestment,” said James L. Madara, MD, AMA chief executive officer and executive vice president, in a news release. “We are excited by her vision, her vigor, and the opportunity to address the myriad reasons for health disparities and health inequity, including juvenile justice, bias, stereotyping, prejudice and clinical uncertainty, and the fact that chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension disproportionately affect underserved populations.”

In a statement, Maybank said that physicians can’t control all the factors that lead to unequal health outcomes, but that the AMA must take a leadership role and be examples for practicing physicians.

“The AMA has a role to identify their importance and to urge those who can have a direct role to act,” she said. “This work starts by looking inward to unearth how our own institutional practices and policies may have exacerbated inequities and to determine what we will need to do to strengthen or change to advance equity.”