Dr. Patrice Harris, M.D. was the 174th president of the American Medical Association. Harris was born and raised in Bluefield, Virginia. She attended local schools and West Virginia University (WVU). Harris received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology in 1982. She continued at WVU, earning her Master of Arts in counseling psychology in 1986 and her M.D. from the WVU School of Medicine in 1992.
Dr. Harris relocated to Atlanta, Georgia after medical school and began her residency and subsequent fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Forensic Psychiatry at Emory University. Her residency lasted until 1985 when she began working as an adjunct professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Services at Emory University. Between 1996 and 1997, Dr. Harris was the Chief Resident in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Dr. Harris began her private practice in Atlanta, Georgia, specializing in adult, child, adolescent, and forensic psychiatry in 1998, and she has continued to operate in those fields throughout her career. In 2001, Dr. Harris was selected as Psychiatrist of the Year by the Georgia Psychiatric Physicians Association. That same year, she became a senior policy fellow and lobbyist for the Barton Child Law and Policy Center and remained there until 2003. Her work helped to strengthen the agency’s efforts to protect children from abuse and neglect through the Georgia State Child Protective Services. Between 2003 and 2005, Dr. Harris worked as the medical director at the Georgia Rehabilitation Outreach Center in Atlanta.
In 2005, Dr. Harris became the medical director of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities at the Fulton County Department of Health Services, and from 2009 to 2015, she worked as the director of the facility. She was inducted into the WVU Academy of Distinguished Alumni in 2007 and was a National Black Health Magazine Honoree in 2012.
Dr. Harris has been an active member of the American Medical Association (AMA) and served in various positions. In June 2011, she was elected to the AMA’s Board of Trustees, and she has chaired various task forces for the association, including the AMA Opioid Task Force which was launched in 2014. Harris also chaired the AMA’s Council on Legislation. She co-chaired the Women’s Physicians Congress. In 2018, she was awarded the Jeanne Spurlock, M.D. Minority Fellowship Achievement Award from the American Psychiatric Association and the Presidential Commendation from the American Academy of Pain Medicine in 2018.
In June of 2018, Dr. Harris became the first African American woman to be elected president of the American Medical Association (2019-2020). On June 11, 2019, she was sworn in at a ceremony in Chicago. She continues to chair the AMA Opioid Task Force and serves as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Emory Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Dr. Harris was president of the nation’s largest organization of physicians during the largest health crisis in the history of the United States in over a century, the Coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic.