Dr. Lonnie Robert Bristow became the American Medical Association’s first Black president in 1995, using the position to challenge health care reform and ethics in the medical community.
Dr. Bristow was born on April 6, 1930 to a Baptist minister father and mother who worked as a nurse. Bristow’s mother inspired his own journey into medicine although his bedside manner was developed early on by caring for an aunt who had arthritis in her knees.
After attending Morehouse College for two years, Bristow transferred to the City College of New York and eventually went on to attend the New York University College of Medicine and went into practice as an internist in San Pablo, California. He joined the AMA in 1970 which helped aid in the diversity of the membership organization.
Once elected as president for the one-year term, Bristow continued his focus on sickle-cell anemia and prioritizing patient care over money. Unfortunately, there has yet to be another Black AMA president, something Bristow says is a shame given that the organization has been around over 148 years. But with two African-American women currently on the Board of Trustees from which leadership is often drawn, Bristow hopes things will change.
“I have high hope that we will see in the very near future years an African-American woman in the Presidency. The trail has been blazed and she will have many friends to support her. Where I can, I try to be available for a little mentoring if needed.”
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