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Medical Group Taps Mfume as New Leader

The National Medical Association, which represents African-American physicians, has tapped one-time Democratic Rep. Kweisi Mfume, a former NAACP president, to be its new executive leader.

Mfume, who represented Maryland in Congress, said his immediate task will be to grow the organization as well as to ensure that the implementation of the health care overhaul approved by Congress “is in sync with its intent.”

While not a physician, Mfume said he has always been interested in health care, noting that he chaired the committee on health when he was on the Baltimore City Council and created a national office of health advocacy at the NAACP.

“This has not been a passing fancy,” he said in a conference call with reporters. “Part of me wishes I had gone to medical school instead of politics.”

NMA President Willarda Edwards called Mfume a “great fit” for the organization, which represents 30,000 African-American physicians and their patients.

Edwards said she will continue to be the national spokeswoman for the organization while Mfume will implement policy.

However, Mfume quickly dispelled any notion that he will remain in the background.

“I am no shrinking violet,” he joked.

Mfume also said he planned to immediately call White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to talk to him about his new role with the NMA. Mfume added that he had served as a surrogate speaker for President Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign.

Mfume said he wants to stress to the White House the need to address the higher rates of certain diseases, such as cancer and diabetes, in minority communities.

He also said there is a need to increase the number of minority health care workers as well as to sensitize Caucasian and Asian physicians to help them better serve African-American communities.

Mfume served in Congress for five terms before taking the helm of the NAACP in 1996. In the House, he headed the Congressional Black Caucus.

At the NAACP he helped stabilize an organization that had been rocked with scandal and financial problems. However, at the time of his departure in 2004, there was also speculation about internal dissent and tension between Mfume and Julian Bond, who was chairman of the civil rights group’s board of directors.

In 2006, Mfume waged an unsuccessful primary campaign for the Senate seat in Maryland where he lost out to Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.).

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