National Medical Association

National Medical Association
Formation 1895
Headquarters Silver Spring, Maryland
Location United States
Membership African American Physicians
Official languages English
President Leonard Weather, Jr.

The National Medical Association (NMA) is the largest and oldest national organization representing African American physicians and their patients in the United States. The NMA is a 501 (c) (3) national professional and scientific organization representing the interests of more than 30,000 African American physicians and the patients they serve, with nearly 112 affiliated societies throughout the nation and U.S. territories. The National Medical Association has been firmly established in a leadership role in medicine. The NMA is committed to improving the quality of health among minorities and disadvantaged people through its membership, professional development, community health education, advocacy, research and partnerships with federal and private agencies. Throughout its history the National Medical Association has focused primarily on health issues related to African Americans and medically underserved populations; however, its principles, goals, initiatives and philosophy encompass all ethnic groups.

“Conceived in no spirit of racial exclusiveness, fostering no ethnic antagonism, but born of the exigencies of the American environment, the National Medical Association has for its object the banding together for mutual cooperation and helpfulness, the men and women of African descent who are legally and honorably engaged in the practice of the cognate professions of medicine, surgery, pharmacy and dentistry.”—C.V. Roman, M.D. NMA Founding Member and First Editor of the JNMA 1908[1]


In the late 1950s, the NMA took a more active interest in civil rights under the leadership of its president, T. R. M. Howard, a surgeon from Mississippi. In the months after his election as president, Howard had played a key role in the search for evidence and witnesses in the Emmett Till murder case and led the largest civil rights organization in the state, the Regional Council of Negro Leadership. In 1957, under his leadership, the NMA organized the Imhotep National Conference on Hospital Integration which publicized and challenged continuing hospital segregation in both the North and South.[2]


To advance the art and science of medicine for people of African descent through education, advocacy, and health policy to promote health and wellness, eliminate health disparities, and sustain physician viability.[3]

The NMA promotes the collective interests of physicians and patients of African descent and tries to carry out this mission by serving as the collective voice of physicians of African descent and a leading force for parity in medicine, elimination of health disparities, and promotion of optimal health.[4]


Since its founding, NMA has served as the conscience of the medical profession. The National Medical Association took the lead in the creation of the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs years ago. Recently, the NMA was at the forefront of the struggle to avert a national health calamity in the reformation of these programs.[5]

History, 1900-1950

The NMA, dedicated to promoting the interests of those of "African Descent," contributed to the national health insurance dialogue from 1900-1950. Despite its rather marginal size, starting in the mid-1910s, the NMA advocated compulsory health insurance. Primarily, the association sought any means that provided medical care for African Americans. As an association, however, it also sought to promote the interests of the African American physician him/herself. Indeed, given the prominent racist practices of the Jim Crow South as well as segregated medical facilities across the U.S., it was extremely difficult for African American physicians to find gainful employment and practice medicine.

From the mid 1910s to the late 1940s, the American Medical Association (AMA) acted as the mainstream medical profession's voice. Yet numerous African American doctors were unable to join the AMA due to the lack of county medical societies and/or because of local bigoted practices, thereby limiting the number of African American AMA members. To exacerbate matters further, the NMA's leadership continued to support compulsory health insurance while AMA members largely distanced itself from such a scheme due to the (a) red scare, (b) belief in U.S. health superiority to other nations with national health insurance schemes and (c) the argument that a national health insurance would potentially ruin the "sacred" practitioner-patient relationship. Struggling between providing medical care for African Americans as well as maintaining the voice of African American physicians, the NMA was internally divided on these issues from the late 1930s-early 1950s.

During this time period, the NMA leadership repeatedly stated their support for a national health insurance scheme through the Journal of the National Medical Association as well as newspapers like the Chicago Defender. At the same time, rank-and-file members, desirous to practice medicine, supported the AMA's proposals. Indeed, during the height of the health insurance debates from 1946-50, the AMA often sent guest speakers to the NMA's conferences. Such AMA officials promised the NMA membership in their ranks as well as the right to practice medicine. Yet the NMA's leadership largely resisted the AMA's efforts. NMA presidents like Drs. E. L. Robinson, C. Austin Whitter and J. G. Gathings opposed the AMA's proposals on the grounds that the AMA had previously excluded African American patients from their care as well as African American physicians from their ranks. Furthermore, the AMA's support of Abraham Flexner's Report of 1910 witnessed the closure of numerous African American and women hospitals across the country. How could, the NMA leadership argued, African American doctors support the AMA when the AMA was in fact the origin of some of African American's most severe issues (indeed, NMA member Dr. Cobb compared the AMA's tactics to the KKK during 1946-50).

By the early 1950s, the NMA still did not possess a consensual platform concerning health insurance. Internally torn about the best methods to promote their own professional ambitions as well as the interests of African American patients, the health insurance topic remained a divisive one. Still, members of the NMA offered resistance to the AMA's promotion of voluntary health insurance when few medical practitioners dared to.

NMA Convention and Scientific Assembly

Nearly every year since its founding in 1895, the NMA has held the Annual Convention & Scientific Assembly, which is regarded as the nation’s foremost forum on medical science and African American health. The NMA is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to sponsor continuing medical education.

Through the presentation of CME programs at the national and regional conventions as well as at state and local society meetings, NMA members are able to meet Category 1 requirements for the Physician’s Achievement Award of the NMA and the Physician’s Recognition Award of the American Medical Association (AMA). The NMA offers CME programs in 23 specialties — from Aerospace Medicine to Urology. Up to forty-five (45) of the 50 Category 1 credits required for licensure in 23 states can be earned at the NMA Annual Convention and Scientific Assembly alone.[6]

Program Awareness

The NMA has conducted national consumer awareness programs in cancer, women’s health, radon, secondhand smoke, smoking cessation and immunizations. Further, the work of the NMA and its members has received national exposure on NBC, ABC, FOX and CNN television stations, as well as numerous radio and major print media each year.[7]


  1. ^ Overview National Medical Association retrieved 2010-07-21
  2. ^ David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito, Black Maverick: T.R.M. Howard's Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009), 132-35, 157-58.
  3. ^ Introduction National Medical Association retrieved 2010-07-21
  4. ^ Introduction National Medical Association retrieved 2010-07-21
  5. ^ History National Medical Association retrieved 2010-07-21
  6. ^ Benefits of Membership at the NMA National Medical Association retrieved 2010-07-21
  7. ^ Benefits of Membership at the NMA National Medical Association retrieved 2010-07-21

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