Motor City Presidents

Article excerpt

DR. Alma Rose George grew up in the National Medical Association--literally.

As a youngster, she accompanied her parents to NMA conventions and tagged along behind her father, Dr. Phillip M. George. "I guess that is what I wanted to do because by the time I was 8, I was going around with my father in Mississippi delivering babies," she says. "I even had my own bag at that age."

As an adult, Dr. George has a thriving medical career to go with her doctor's bag. The Detroit surgeon recently realized a "lifelong ambition" when she was installed as the 90th president and the third woman to lead the National Medical Association.

As leader of the nation's oldest Black professional organization, Dr. George faces a demanding schedule, traveling around the country representing the needs of the nation's estimated 16,000 Black physicians.

She has called for a national health care insurance program. She also hopes to develop traditional programs to increase the organization's active membership, assist Black physicians in their dealings with local health problems in their communities, attract more Black high school and college students into the medical field and provide improved health care services to the homess and uninsured.

Many of the issues--generating new membership, for example--have been staples of the organization since its founding 96 years ago. But other issues touch Dr. George more deeply.

"Black people don't give up organs," she says of a pressing health problem in the Black community. "We have people who think that if you remove a part, then you can't get embalmed or that the undertaker won't be able to fix you the way he needs so. That's why it is important for us to start with an education program on organ donations for our physicians first and then the community."

Born in Mound Bayou, Miss., she earned a reputation for helping her father. Looking back now, she says, she preferred to spend time in her father's office to playing with other children.

Her early interest in medicine led to studies at Fisk University and Meharry Medical College. Shen then moved to Detroit in 1960 for an internship at Detroit General Hospital.

Through it all, Dr. George never really left the NMA. After arriving in Detroit, she joined the Detroit Medical Society and eventually became that group's president. She moved on to the state chapter, where she became secretary and later president of the wolverine State Medical Society.

She was first elected to the NMA's board of delegates in 1966, and later served as a member of the board of trustees and treasurer before winning the president-elect post in 1990 and eventually the presidency.

Today, Dr. George juggles her NMA responsibilities with that of a thriving medical practice, the operation of three surgical outpatient centers and a patient care management system for Wayne County. It is a hectic schedule, but Dr. George manages just fine, always finding time for the important things--like her husband Frederick Finch, a Detroit real estate broker, and their son Franklin. A blues fan, she is also an avid pool player.

"Well, I think you just have to say that family is important, and you just have to find the time," she says. "I come home to eat my afternoon dinner with my husband, unless I have some emergency surgery, and then he'll wait for me. …