Black women making strides and striving for more

Written by: Niva Lubin-Johnson
Published on: Aug 17, 2020

As the 119th President of the National Medical Association (NMA), I am the thirteenth woman to hold this position in the organization’s 124-year history. Also, I’ve been the third woman to hold this position in four years. NMA was founded because African American physicians were not allowed to join the AMA. We are the collective force for African American physicians for parity, justice and medicine.

We are making strides in other areas, also. The 2018 change in the majority of the U.S. Congress was due to Black women voting at a higher rate of all other groups. We are a larger percentage in the workforce (62.2% of us are employees), and between 2004 and 2014 the number of Black women with a bachelor’s degrees increased 23.9%. Also, the numbers of businesses owned by Black women increased by 178% between 2002 and 2012 — the largest increase among all racial and ethnic groups of women.

We also know that there are many areas that need improvement. For example, 16.5% of Black women lack health insurance coverage. Our incidence of AIDS is five times higher than other racial and ethnic groups of women. And we have a 24.6% incidence of poverty, which is higher than all groups of men and women, except Native American women (24.8%).

Recent statistics also show that women and African American physicians have lower incomes than men and whites. As women progress in academia, fewer of us are associate and full professors.  African American female medical students are also more likely to be victims of sexual harassment.

 I write about our successes and our struggles to remind everyone that despite the urgency and crisis that is going on with Black men (which includes issues such as the lack of Black men in medicine and higher mortality rates for Black men for many diseases) we need to address some challenging and different issues for our women also.

We are dealing with lower pay, slow to no advancement in academia, and sexual harassment. Suicide is higher for physicians and even higher for female physicians. Addressing these issues during and after my presidency helped to achieve progress in the awareness of the problem and solutions. The Pandemic has accentuated some of these issues and the recent episodes of racial strife gives hope that things will change for the better, if not in my lifetime, hopefully for the next generation.


It will take Black men and women physicians to find answers to the crisis of the lack of Black men in medicine. And it will take both groups   to eliminate the sexual harassment of medical students.

As NMA President, I spoke, hosted programs, and attended meetings that stressed collaboration with other organizations to achieve our organizational goals. We must continue to work together to survive and thrive, as we have for the past 400 years.  And as Black physicians united, we celebrate 125 years as our National Medical Association.

Niva Johnson




Dr. Lubin-Johnson has been an advocate of quality healthcare for all and is the 119th President of the National Medical Association. In its 123-year history, she is the third President and first woman to have served as President, Speaker of the House Delegates and Chair of the Board of Trustees.
She was in the last class to finish her Medical Degree in 3 years from Southern Illinois University and completed Internal Medicine at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chicago. Dr. Lubin-Johnson was in private practice for 29 years and served on various committees at 2 hospitals on the Southside of Chicago.
Dr. Lubin-Johnson is Chair of the Women’s Physician Section and has been Chair of the Minority Affairs Section of the American Medical Association. She is a member of the American College of Physicians, Life-member of the Student National Medical Association and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and a founding advisory member of TimesUp Healthcare. With the pandemic, she felt a need to serve and is a member of the Illinois Department of Public Health COVID-19 Equity Team and the Illinois Lieutenant Governor Health Equity Task Force.
She believes in the need for wellness and preventive care to prevent physician burnout and is laser-focused on increasing the numbers of African Americans entering and completing medical school and completing residency.

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