David J. Skorton, MD
President and CEO
David J. Skorton, MD, is president and CEO of the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges), a not-for-profit institution that represents the nation’s medical schools, teaching hospitals and health systems, and academic societies.
He began his leadership of the AAMC in July 2019 after a distinguished career in government, higher education, and medicine.
Shortly after his arrival, Dr. Skorton oversaw a comprehensive strategic planning process that established a new mission and vision for the AAMC. It also introduced 10 bold action plans to tackle the nation’s most intractable challenges in health and make academic medicine more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
The strategic plan established two new entities within the AAMC. The AAMC Research and Action Institute is a think tank that convenes national experts to pursue workable solutions to long-standing health care problems, such as widespread health disparities and inadequate access to care. The AAMC Center for Health Justice works with public health and community-based organizations, among other groups, to co-create solutions to health inequities and improve population and community health.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Skorton contributed to the national response through frequent interactions with senior government officials, appearances in national media, and development of a Road Map to Reset the Nation’s Approach to the Pandemic. He and other AAMC leaders and experts sounded the alarm on shortages of personal protective equipment in hospitals, testing shortages in academic laboratories, and the importance of respecting science and the scientific process in efforts to fight the pandemic.
When national protests erupted in 2020 over police brutality, Dr. Skorton was a passionate and outspoken voice for ending systemic racism in academic medicine and addressing persistent health disparities. He raised awareness about the social determinants of health — such as education, job opportunities, family and social support, community safety, and environmental and housing conditions — that affect a person’s health and well-being and are, in turn, influenced by fundamental upstream factors such as poverty and systemic racism. In the AAMC’s award-winning “Beyond the White Coat” podcast, Dr. Skorton has addressed several topics, including diversity, equity, and inclusion in academic medicine.
Dr. Skorton engages with medical students and residents through social media and speaking at venues such as the Latino Medical Student Association and National Medical Fellowships, focusing on why now is such an important time to enter the field of medicine.
Prior to assuming the helm of the AAMC, Dr. Skorton served as the 13th secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, where he oversaw 19 museums, 21 libraries, the National Zoo, and numerous research centers and education programs. Before that, he served as president of two universities: Cornell University (2006 to 2015) and the University of Iowa (2003 to 2006), where he also served on the faculty for 26 years and specialized in the treatment of adolescents and adults with congenital heart disease. A pioneer of cardiac imaging and computer processing techniques, he was co-director and co-founder of the University of Iowa Adolescent and Adult Congenital Heart Disease Clinic.
A distinguished professor at Georgetown University, Dr. Skorton is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. He is also a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He served on the AAMC Board of Directors from 2010 to 2013, and he was the charter president of the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs, Inc., the first group organized specifically to accredit human research protection programs. Additionally, he is a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors, a diverse group of writers with a broad range of expertise and views that span the political spectrum.
A nationally recognized supporter of the arts and humanities, as well as an accomplished jazz musician, Dr. Skorton believes that many of society’s thorniest problems can only be solved by combining the sciences, social sciences, and the arts and humanities.
Dr. Skorton earned his BA from Northwestern University and his MD from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. He completed his medical residency and fellowship in cardiology and was chief medical resident at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is married to Robin Davisson, PhD, an award-winning scientist who is a professor emerita of molecular physiology at Cornell University, as well as a professor of medicine at Georgetown University and an emerging visual artist.
Media Appearances and Speaking Engagements:
- “COVID burnout: Demand on doctors could worsen shortage,” co-authored with Janis Orlowski, MD, MACP, USA Today (login required)
- “Racial health disparities: How COVID-19 magnified a public health emergency,” award-winning “Beyond the White Coat” podcast
- “Why we need the arts and humanities to get us through the COVID-19 pandemic,” USA Today
- “Now is our time to act,” award-winning leadership plenary speech delivered at Learn Serve Lead 2020: The Virtual Experience, Nov. 17, 2020
- “We need a covid-19 reset. So we developed a comprehensive plan to do just that,” Washington Post
- “Criticism of Dr. Fauci is misguided. Our understanding of COVID-19 is rapidly evolving,” USA Today
- “5 steps the U.S. should take now to prepare for the next pandemic,” USA Today
- “How the U.S. can prepare for the next pandemic,” NPR
- Economic Club of Washington, D.C.
- “Widespread but uneven shortages in testing components,” CNN Newsroom
- “Coronavirus testing needs to triple before the economy can safely reopen: Harvard,” CNBC
- Press conferences on the coronavirus, the health care workforce shortage, and racism and health
- Listen to the “Beyond the White Coat” podcast