Medical and Dental Associations

Who was the first black president of the American Medical Association?

In 1995 Lonnie R. Bristow (1930–) became the first black president of the American Medical Association. A New York City native, Bristow was the son of a Baptist minister and a nurse. He grew up in Harlem and spent many hours at the Sydenham Hospital where his mother worked and where he went to escort her home at night. His experiences there stimulated him to become a doctor and to provide quality health care to patients regardless of race. Bristow graduated from City College of New York (B.S., 1953) and New York University College of Medicine (M.D., 1957). He completed several residencies, the last at the University of California’s School of Medicine in San Francisco. He established a private practice in San Pablo, California, in 1964, and became highly active in medical societies. He became the first black president of the American Society of Internal Medicine in 1982. Bristow served the American Medical Association in a variety of posts, such as alternate delegate to AMA’s House of Delegates in 1978, chair of the Council of Medical Service in 1979, and chair of the board of trustees in 1993. In 1985 he was the first black elected to AMA’s board.


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