Leaving AAMC to help disadvantaged children in nation’s capital

By Dawn Goodlove

Since her earliest jobs, Ann Bonham (’86 PhD) has witnessed and worked to defeat health care inequities.

As chief scientific officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) over the past six years, Bonham has been a tireless advocate for biomedical research and its power to improve health and transform health care for all in the United States and beyond. She received a University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine Distinguished Alumni Award in 2012.

Now she starts a new chapter in her life, leaving the AAMC to focus on addressing inequities around Washington by working with Bright Beginnings, a not-for-profit organization that provides developmentally appropriate care and education to children age 6 weeks to 5 years whose families are living in crisis shelters or transitional housing.

Ann Bonham
Ann Bonham

“It’s a specialized education process that recognizes the challenges of food insecurity, hunger, stigma, fear, and all that goes with homelessness. The idea is to help the children reach important milestones and help parents end their homelessness,” Bonham says.

“Seeing these children and the devoted teachers got my attention. So I decided to jump in to learn from and work with the educators and children, helping in any way possible and also helping them expand their services beyond the children they currently serve. I’m not sure where it will take me, but I’m excited to give it a go. It’s my turn to give back.”

Growing up in a small Oklahoma town, Bonham noticed health care inequities while working afterschool at a pharmacy counting out pills, staffing the ice cream counter, and restocking the shelves. Not everybody had access to health care. After earning a master’s degree in pharmacy at the UI, Bonham joined a foundation for the United Mine Workers, providing health care to miners in rural West Virginia.

“There again, I witnessed inequities in health and health care,” she says.

She returned to the UI for her PhD in pharmacology and then launched her career in academic medicine at the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine before joining the AAMC. Her research focused on neural control of cardiovascular systems, and during her 20 years at UC-Davis she also assumed administrative roles including chief of the cardiovascular medicine division in internal medicine, vice chair for research in internal medicine, chair of pharmacology, and executive associate dean for academic affairs.

At the AAMC, she increased national visibility of health equity research and created the AAMC Research on Care Community, which helps AAMC-member organizations integrate patient and population research into their care delivery and education missions.

“I have loved working at the AAMC. It has given me privileges and opportunities I would have never otherwise had,” Bonham says.