NMA President Leads National Crusade for Equal Health Care

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NMA President Leads National Crusade For Equal Health Care

AS PRESIDENT of the National Medical Association, Dr. Vivian Winona Pinn-Wiggins is one of the major voices in the national dialogue on health care.

The second woman president of the predominantly Black 16,000-member association and the first Black woman to chair a medical school pathology department, the Howard University professor has used her position to build a national coalition for quality medical care for Black Americans.

Shortly after her election, she told a federal health care commission that the National Medical Association (NMA) was especially concerned about the growing plight of poor and minority populations. To back up her position, she cited a 1985 federal government report documenting the disproportionate number of Blacks suffering from diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, kidney disorders, heart disease and various forms of cancer. The report, she pointed out, documented the needless loss of 59,000 Black lives each year because of the failure to receive the same health care as White Americans--a situation the NMA says is unacceptable.

Working tirelessly from 12 to 18 hours a day in behalf of her cause, Dr. Pinn-Wiggins has set an entirely new tone in the national debate over health care and has helped put the issue squarely on the national front burner.

She brings a lifetime of experience and sensitivity to the subject. Growing up in Lynchburg, Va., the only child of two schoolteachers, she helped care for her ailing grandfather when she was only five or six years old. "It made me think," she says now, looking back, "that I wanted to do into medicine. Then, after my mother died of cancer when I was 19 years old, it only reinforced my early thinking."

After graduating from Wellesley College, she attended the University of Virginia School of Medicine, where she was the only female and the only Black in her class. …