ABOVE PHOTO: Enon Nurses Health Ministry and Chi Eta Phi Nurses sorority volunteers at NMA and Enon event. (Photo: Arlene Edmonds)
By Arlene Edmonds
The National Medical Association (NMA), the premier organization for African American physicians and health professionals, opened their 115th Annual Convention in Philadelphia at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University last weekend.
On hand were members of the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church Nurses Health Ministry, the Chi Eta Phi nursing sorority, and a non-profit medical mentoring initiative, along with other volunteers engaged in the “Walk a Mile with a Child” collaborative that focused on childhood obesity and the lack of physical activity in Black communities.
“There were just so much in these sessions that raised awareness,” said Dr. Traci C. Burgess of New York. She and Dr. Rachel Villanueva are members of the NMA board and were among those in attendance at the NMA News Hour on Tuesday, August 1.
“This is an event that brings together all the administrators, students and other professionals in health care,” Burgess said. “It’s very important that our community continues to have access to healthcare and wellness.
“We need insurance coverage, but we also need to understand how we can access wellness services. The foundation of healthcare is prevention. This starts before pregnancy, through the early years and throughout life. It’s about health and wellness, not just healthcare,” Burgess said.
The remainder of the conference then shifted to the Pennsylvania Convention Center later that day. The Edward C. Mazique Symposium, named for a past president, focused on ways to educate NMA members about ways to influence health policy. Topics included mental health, medical research, the economic survival of the African-American physician, and issues relating to physician profiles and performance standards.
The Sunday program included “Prevention of Diabetes and Obesity,” “Food as Medicine,” and “How Not to Die: Start Your Transformation.” There was also a focus on cardiovascular disease in women. The latter was also addressed during the opening session with Enon.
“I am so glad that the NMA is focusing on the health of the Black community, including our women,” said Winsome James, the head of the Enon ministry team. “Taking care of yourself means that you know what your blood pressure is. You get your breast examinations because in the Black community, we have so much breast cancer. We have so much lupus, high cholesterol, and diabetes that [many] are not aware that they have to take care of themselves.”
While the Saturday evening banquet honored members, the Tuesday afternoon gala was about passing the presidential torch. Dr. Doris Browne became the new NMA president suceeding Dr. Robert A. Mitchell, Jr. Brown said that she hoped that the Philadelphia community could work closely with the NMA.
“This event is like a blueprint of what we plan to do,” Browne said. “We want to partner with all types of health professionals and join with our faith communities. This is the only way we will be able to address the health disparities, and that is why I have this as part of the 2018 agenda.”
Dr. Lynn Holden, a Northwest Philadelphia native who now lives in New York City, said that her Medical Mentor non-profit is reaching out to Philadelphia’s young people. She said that it was important that more students consider careers in the STEM and all phases of health and wellness care.
“My hometown[neighborhood] is Mount Airy,” Holden said. “My mother taught in Germantown for 30 years. I went to Temple Medical School. I am just excited to be at an event where my mentors are sharing all the opportunities in the STEM fields with the young from the church and the community. We want young people in Philadelphia to know that there are many opportunities in these fields.”
The conference included exhibitors representing organizations like Howard University School of Medicine and Delaware Valley institutions that offer programs to educate health professionals.
“That’s why we have events like the [one on the] middle school campus. It is never too early to get young people interested in careers that could prevent or cure diseases,” Holden said.