Kweisi Mfume, former U.S. congressman and past president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), was named chief executive officer of the National Medical Association (NMA) this week.
The NMA is the nation’s oldest and largest medical association representing the interests of more than 30,000 African-American physicians and their patients.
“I am just happy and honored to be given an opportunity to be a part of what I consider to be one of the premier organizations serving our community,” Mfume, a former Baltimore City Council member, said in an interview with the AFRO. “I have dedicated my life to ending the economic and social barriers that continue to confront people of color all across our nation…It has been a varied approach to trying to be supportive of health issues.”
Mfume’s former public service assignments, he said, have prepared him to take the helm of this prestigious organization. He first chaired the Committee on Health in Baltimore’s City Council, where he served for seven years. Mfume went on to serve five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives representing Maryland’s Seventh District, where he chaired the Joint Economic Committee, the Congressional Black Caucus, and co-founded the Congressional Task force on Sarciodosis Disease Awareness. Most recently, as leader of the NAACP, Mfume co-founded the Office of Health Advocacy to educate and advocate on behalf of access and affordability.
“This had not existed before I’d gotten there, but I realized that health was really a civil rights issue in many respects because of the way it disproportionately affects our community,” said Baltimore’s native son.
Mfume’s appointment comes on the heels of a historical moment in American democracy—the passing of health care reform legislation—and he says he will continue to tackle disparities and promote health policy priorities.
“This is such a great time. The relevance and the timing could not be better,” said Mfume. “With the passing of the health care bill and the roll out which will go on for four years, it’s important that the issues African-American physicians care so much about are protected.
“It is important that we use this opportunity to ask the larger question of what are we going to do as a nation to eliminate disparities that affect Black communities and underserved communities disproportionately.”
NMA President Willarda V. Edwards said in a press release, “Kweisi Mfume brings significant expertise to our organization that will directly benefit our members as they navigate the ever-changing landscape of health care.”
In addition to serving on the board of trustees for Johns Hopkins Hospital for the past 12 years, he serves on the Boy Scouts of America National Advisory Council, Morgan State University Board of Regents and Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
The NMA was founded in 1895 as a national professional and scientific organization committed to improving the quality of health among minorities and disadvantaged people through its membership, professional development, community health education, advocacy, research and partnership with federal and private agencies.
“It is the NMA, in my opinion, that has the greatest opportunity to effectuate change in the area of health care and health affordability and access and to end the disparity,” said Mfume. “I want to be a part of making sure that comes to pass.”