New NMA President Sandra Gadson Calls for ’Equality Agenda’; Photo Available
WASHINGTON, July 28 -- The National Medical Association (NMA) installed Indiana physician Sandra L. Gadson, M.D. as its 106th president during its Annual Convention and Scientific Assembly, which concludes this week in New York City. NMA presidents serve for a one-year term.
Gadson, a nephrology specialist, is currently the Medical Director of the Northwest Indiana Dialysis Center in Gary, Indiana. She was president of the Northwest Indiana Chapter of the NMA, and for several years was a member of the NMA Board of Trustees. Gadson was officially inaugurated as the new NMA President on July 27th. She is credited with establishing the first freestanding dialysis center in northern Indiana.
In her inaugural address to convention delegates, Gadson described the NMA’s “equality agenda” as consisting of programs and activities that enable African Americans and people of color to receive better health care and live longer, healthier lives. She emphasized that the overarching focus of the ongoing work at the NMA will continue to be to eradicate health disparities. “Health inequality is a multifaceted problem that calls for a multidimensional response,” she said.
In outlining the priorities of her administration, Gadson proposed that the NMA increase its membership and mentorship, advocate for a national health plan of universal coverage; strengthen partnerships with churches and the media to promote health awareness, and launch initiatives in kidney disease to encourage transplantation and organ donation. She noted that African Americans make up 13 percent of the US population but nearly one-third of all kidney patients. “The crisis of kidney failure in the African American community mirrors the dilemma of health care disparities,” she said.
A native of Spartanburg, South Carolina, Gadson is a graduate of Hampton University and Meharry Medical College. She completed her residency at the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago. She subsequently worked in the Emergency Room at Methodist Hospital in Gary, where she was shocked to learn that the predominately poor, African American city had a high prevalence of kidney failure yet no dialysis center. She immediately took steps to establish a dialysis center to serve patients in northern Indiana.
Gadson freely talks about a serious health challenge that she faced years ago -- colon cancer -- and how going through that experience helped her develop empathy for her patients and to become a more sensitive doctor. “When my patients curse a rising wave of pain or struggle to give voice to their suffering, I understand because I’ve been there.” She said she fell in love with medicine because of its “aura of scientific mysteries and extraordinary human possibilities.”
Gadson’s speech culminated the NMA’s week-long convention that featured presentations by numerous medical experts, policy makers, and industry leaders. Speakers included: Dr. Mark McClellan, Director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS); Rev. Jesse Jackson, civil rights leader; and Dr. Maya Angelou, writer and health advocate. More than 5,000 physicians representing 24 specialties attended the NMA convention, which offered numerous workshops and presentations on medical innovations and research.
Founded in 1895, the National Medical Association is the nation’s oldest and largest medical association representing the interests of more than 25,000 African-American physicians and their patients. The NMA has repeatedly advocated for policies that would assure equitable and quality health care for all people.
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