Kweisi Mfume, former chairman and CEO of the NAACP, was named the executive director of the National Medical Association (NMA) Thursday, succeeding Dr. Mohammad Akhter. The appointment will take effect March 29.
“I have dedicated my life to ending the economic and social barriers that continue to confront people of color all across our nation,” Mfume said in a statement. “The National Medical Association has been the conscience of the medical profession by making sure that African Americans and the underserved have a voice in their health and healthcare.”
The National Medical Association is the nation’s oldest and largest medical association representing the interests of more than 30,000 physicians of African descent and their patients.
With the nation focused on healthcare as President Barack Obama signed into law a major overhaul of the healthcare system, Mfume’s background in health policy will make him a strong leader for the NMA and assist the organization with its mission to assure equitable and quality healthcare for all people.
“With such an intense national focus on health policy, Kweisi Mfume brings significant expertise to our organization that will directly benefit our members as they navigate the ever-changing landscape of healthcare,” said NMA President Willarda V. Edwards, M.D., M.B.A.
Among the many items on Mfume’s agenda, he plans to focus on addressing disparities in healthcare. Almost 10.8% of whites, 19.1% of blacks, and 30.7% of Hispanics are without health insurance, according to a new report by the National Urban League. The disparities in healthcare can be seen in the childhood obesity epidemic among minority populations, where 18.6% of boys ages 6-11 and 24% of girls are overweight.
“We have a long way to go to truly eliminate health disparities,” he said, “but now is the time to work with political, medical, and community leaders to make that vision real.”
The Baltimore, Maryland, native led the NAACP for nine years, and resigned in 2004 amid allegations of improprieties. As NAACP president, he established the organization’s first National Office of Health Advocacy to educate and advocate on behalf of access and affordability in healthcare. Prior to his tenure, he served as a five-term Congressman in Maryland and was the head of the Congressional Black Caucus. Mfume also served on the Baltimore City Council for seven years, where he chaired the Committee on Health.