President Johnson in Houston (1955-1980, Section 10)
The National Medical Association (NMA) held its annual meeting at Houston’s famous Shamrock Hotel in the heart of the Texas Medical Center. The Houston Medical Forum (HMF), as the local component society, organized the event.
The NMA and the HMF invited President Johnson to speak to at the Houston meeting. As Dr. Blanchard Hollins recalls, the NMA and African-American physicians vigorously supported Johnson’s Medicare and Medicaid programs. First, they believed that the programs would improve the medical care available to the African-American community whose members remained disproportionately represented among the nation’s poor. They also recognized that the desegregation provisions of the laws would break down remaining color barriers they faced in joining the staffs at the nation’s hospitals.
Given the NMA’s support, particularly in the face of ambivalence by many white doctors and the American Medical Association, President Johnson agreed to address the Houston meeting where he praised the merits of Medicare and asked the NMA for continued assistance in improving the health of the nation. As had past commentators such as Dr. Henry Lee and Dr. W. Montague Cobb, President Johnson recognized that the limited number of African-American physicians contributed to the inequality in the health conditions of black and white citizens: “We must persuade American universities to stretch and expand their resources to give special attention to training Negroes to take their rightful place in the health professions.”1 In order to meet this goal, medical schools began to expand their admission policies and recruited minority students.
- “President Lyndon B. Johnson Speech on 14 August 1968, for the Annual Convention of the National Medical Association, Houston, Texas” The Reading Room, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, National Archives and Records Administration, Austin, Texas.