The NMA: Who We Are

(BlackDoctor.org) — The National Medical Association (NMA) is the nation’s oldest and largest organization representing African American physicians and health professionals in the United States. Established in 1895, the NMA is the collective voice of more than 30,000 African American physicians and the patients they serve.

The NMA was founded in 1895, during an era in US history when the majority of African Americans were disenfranchised. The segregated policy of “separate but equal” dictated virtually every aspect of society. Racially exclusive “Jim Crow” laws dominated employment, housing, transportation, recreation, education, and medicine. Black Americans were subjected to all of the injustices inherent in a dual medical care system.

Under the backdrop of racial exclusivity, membership in America’s professional organizations, including the American Medical Association (AMA), was restricted to whites only. The AMA determined medical policy for the country and played an influential role in broadening the expertise of physicians. When a group of black doctors sought membership into the AMA, they were repeatedly denied admission. Subsequently, the NMA was created for black doctors and health professionals who found it necessary to establish their own medical societies and hospitals.

“Conceived in no spirit of racial exclusiveness, fostering no ethnic antagonisms, but born out of the exigency of the American environment…” the NMA extended equal rights and privileges to all physicians. Although the NMA has led the fight for better medical care and opportunities for all Americans, its primary focus targets health issues related to minority populations and the medically underserved. The NMA remains committed to improving the health status and outcomes of African Americans and the disadvantaged.

The Founders…

In 1895, the charter members who were present during the Cotton States and International Exposition at the first meeting, chose officers. Robert F. Boyd, M.D., of Nashville, TN, served as its first president. The other officers were: Daniel Hale Williams, M.D., from Chicago, vice president; Daniel L. Martin, M.D., of Nashville, TN, secretary; David H. C. Scott, M.D., Montgomery, AL, treasurer; and H. R. Butler, M.D., Atlanta, GA, chairman of the executive committee. Miles V. Lynk, M.D., of Memphis, TN, and Robert F. Boyd, M.D. were the prime moving spirits of the formation of the organization. The two men had invited all professional persons who could be located at the exposition to meet at the First Congregational Church, and the NMA was born.