JAHA retracts paper calling for end to cardiology diversity programmes

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The Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA) has retracted a paper published in March 2020, which drew criticism due to its conclusions about race and the role of affirmative action within cardiology. 

The paper, authored by Norman C Wang, associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, USA, is titled Diversity, inclusion, and equity: evolution of race and ethnicity considerations for the cardiology workforce in the United States of America from 1969 to 2019, and advocates an end to racial and ethnic preferences for undergraduate and medical school admission. 

In the paper, Wang writes: Since 1969, racial and ethnic preferences have existed throughout the American medical academy. The primary purpose has been to increase the number of blacks and Hispanics within the physician workforce as they were deemed to be underrepresented in medicine’.  

Despite these efforts, Wang adds, “numerical targets for underrepresented minorities set by the Association of American Medical Colleges have consistently fallen short. The failure is referred to by Wang as being attributable to the “limited qualified applicant pool and legal challenges to the use of race and ethnicity in admissions to institutions of higher education. 

The American Heart Association (AHA) has strongly countered the findings of Wang’s paper, and in a statement this week said that the decision to retract the paper, taken alongside the JAHA editor-in-chief, had been “in the best interest of the public and the research community”. The decision had been taken following “significant discourse and warranted concern” over the paper’s findings, AHA said. 

The Association’s statement added: “The Wang paper has rightfully drawn criticism for its misrepresentations and conclusions. As an organisation focused on the relentless pursuit of longer, healthier lives for everyone everywhere, the AHA denounces the views expressed in the article and regrets its role in enabling those views to be promoted. Those views are a misrepresentation of the facts and are contrary to our organisation’s core values and historic commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion in medicine and science. 

The American Heart Association remains committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion as foundationally essential to its mission. The Association invests in helping to build a diverse healthcare and scientific research community and actively works to eliminate barriers and increase opportunities in science for people from historically-excluded communities and those impacted by race, ethnicity, and class disparities. 

The Association said it has launched a formal investigation to “better understand how a paper that is completely incompatible with the Association’s core values was published. The independent editors of JAHA and the AHA are reviewing the journal’s peer-review and publication processes, it added 

The statement continues: “The Association believes much morenot lessneeds to be done to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in science, medicine, and cardiology. The volunteer and staff leaders of the American Heart Association remain resolved to improve the actions and investments across the organisation, as well as within the editorially autonomous journals that bear the Association’s trusted name. 

JAHA will also be publishing a detailed rebuttal of the paper. 


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