UMCSC doctor inaugurated as new president of the AMA

Gerald E. Harmon, a family medicine physician from Pawleys Island, was sworn in June 15 as the 176th president of the American Medical Association, the nation’s premier physician organization.

Harmon is a member of Duncan Memorial United Methodist Church, Georgetown.

Sworn in remotely during the virtual special meeting of the AMA House of Delegates, Harmon spoke about his own journey in medicine, the profound challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the AMA’s recently released plan to embed racial justice and advance health equity.

“The COVID pandemic has revealed enormous gaps in how we care for people and communities in America, demonstrated in the disproportionate impact of this pandemic on communities of color and in the weaknesses of our underfunded and under-resourced public health infrastructure,” Harmon said. “During such times of struggle and heartbreak, it is important for us to ‘remember our ‘why.’ Why did we enter medicine? Why do we continue to struggle against overwhelming administrative and regulatory burdens? Why are we risking our health and our families during this global pandemic? I would submit that the education, the training, the years of experience and sacrifice we have gone through has prepared us for such a time as this.”

Harmon has been an AMA board member since 2013, serving as board chair from 2017 to 2018. Prior to his election to the AMA board, he served on the AMA Council on Medical Service. He has held several leadership positions with the South Carolina Medical Association, including chair of the board of trustees and president.

Practicing for more than 30 years as a family medicine specialist in his coastal South Carolina hometown of Georgetown, Harmon is a clinical professor at two South Carolina medical schools, as well as member of the clinical faculty for the Tidelands Health MUSC Family Medicine residency program. He serves as an adviser to the board of trustees of a community health system and as vice president in a multi-specialty physician practice. He also serves as medical director for several organizations and volunteers as medical supervisor for his local school district’s 23 schools.

Harmon received his undergraduate degree in physics and mathematics from the University of South Carolina and has since been recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus. He received his medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina and completed a residency training program in family medicine with the U.S. Air Force at Eglin AFB, Florida.

In a 35-year military career, he served as chief surgeon for the National Guard Bureau and as assistant surgeon general for the U.S. Air Force before retiring as a major general.

“Duncan could not be any more proud of Dr. Harmon,” said Duncan Memorial UMC’s pastor the Rev. Ross Chellis. “He is deserving of this distinct honor.”

More importantly, Chellis said, there is no one more prepared for the work Harmon and his AMA colleagues will face in the coming year. He is known as a small-town, family doctor, but his reach cannot be limited to the local community, and he has devoted his life to serving others.

“Dr. Harmon know his ‘why,’ and he gives himself to serving others on a daily basis,” Chellis said. “Dr. Harmon and his wife, Linda, are people of sincere faith. The Harmons are driven by their compassion for others. When one of my sons received a cut by his eye, Dr. Harmon was quick to come by the parsonage to patch him up. It is not unusual to see Mrs. Harmon in the halls at church throughout the week, or rocking a baby in our nursery. These are people who know the love of Christ and share the love of Christ.

“I’m encouraged to know the leadership of the AMA is comprised of people like Dr. and Mrs. Harmon."

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