Willarda V. Edwards, M.D., an alumna of The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), will be installed as the 110th president of the National Medical Association (NMA) on Tuesday, July 28, during the NMA’s annual convention in Las Vegas, Nev.
Edwards, who practices internal medicine in Baltimore, Md., will serve a one-year term as president of the nation’s largest organization representing African-American physicians.
The 1972 UTEP biology graduate says she will make health care equality the major focus of her presidency. The NMA has a variety of public-education initiatives aimed at creating awareness of and reducing disparities in health care among African-Americans and other minorities.
“A major focus will be getting minorities in the health care career pipeline, which will help improve the quality of care and ensure culturally competent care,” Edwards said.
African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans make up a quarter of the United States population, but these groups comprise only nine percent of practicing physicians.
Edwards said the NMA will work closely with the American Medical Association (AMA), the nation’s largest physician organization, on health equity issues. The organizations’ partnership will be all the stronger because the new president of the AMA, James J. Rohack, M.D., happens to be a good friend of Edwards and a fellow UTEPalumnus. Rohack, who was inducted as AMA president in June, graduated from UTEP in 1976.
Edwards and Rohack have worked together on the Commission to End Health Care Disparities, created in 2004 by the AMA, NMA and National Hispanic Medical Association.
Edwards entered private practice in 1984, and since that time has established herself in many leadership roles involving African American and minority health issues.
She served as the National Health Advocacy director for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 2002-2004, and as president of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America from 2004-2009.
In 2007, she received the Congressional Black Caucus Health Brain Trust Award in Journalism as a co-author of The Black Women’s Guide to Black Men’s Health.
She is a managing partner in the private practice of Drs. Edwards and Stephens, Internal Medicine, in Baltimore, Md.