A vice dean of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine was named editor of the American Medical Association's influential weekly journal today, making her the first female editor in its 116-year history.

At a Manhattan news conference, Catherine D. De Angelis was introduced as editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association. She replaces George Lundberg, whose firing in January provoked a controversy over the journal's editorial independence.

"JAMA is now positioned and poised for the 21st century," said Roger Rosenberg, chairman of the search committee that appointed De Angelis.

She is the editor of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, published by the AMA, as well as a member of JAMA's editorial board. At Johns Hopkins' medical school, De Angelis is vice dean for academic affairs and faculty.

Asked whether she was offered any guidelines about editing the journal in the wake of Lundberg's dismissal, she replied, "Absolutely not." She described Lundberg as "a friend and a colleague."

"Editorial freedom is essential. I have no doubt that editorial freedom will be the byword," De Angelis said, adding that she might focus more on issues linked to women's and children's health, along with concerns about substance abuse.

JAMA has been run by interim editors since Lundberg left. He was dismissed after publishing a survey of college students' sexual attitudes that coincided with President Clinton's impeachment trial.

AMA Executive Vice President E. Ratcliffe Anderson said he felt that Lundberg inappropriately injected the organization into a political debate.

Lundberg, who took a job as editor in chief for an online medical information site, was highly critical of the AMA, saying he had to battle AMA leaders, members and lobbyists to retain editorial independence.

The AMA has since created a board to serve as a buffer between the editor in chief and the association's management.