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Medical Association Apologizes for History of Prejudice

The American Medical Association apologized on Thursday for its history of discrimination aimed at preventing African-Americans from gaining membership. Experts offer insight into the statement and the history behind it.

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    For the better part of a century, well into the 1960s, black doctors were largely unable to become members of the nation's leading physicians' group.

    Today, the American Medical Association issued a formal apology for what was called a, quote, "stain left by a legacy of discrimination." The move is a further step in efforts to overcome disparities in the treatment of health of African-Americans that continue to this day.

    Dr. Ronald Davis, the immediate past president of the AMA, helped lead the group's efforts. He joins us from East Lansing, Michigan.

    And with us here is Dr. Nelson Adams, president of the National Medical Association, an organization of African-American physicians.

    Well, Dr. Davis, I want to start with you. What form did the discrimination take in the past? What specific practices made an apology necessary?

    DR. RONALD DAVIS, former president, American Medical Association: We found through research that was done by an independent writing team that we set up in 2005 that it was really the combination of two policies that resulted in this discrimination, which kept most African-American physicians from being able to join and participate in the AMA.

    One policy was on the part of some local medical societies that prohibited African-American physicians from being able to join those societies.

    The other policy was on behalf of the American Medical Association, which said that, in order to become a member of the AMA, you had to already have become a member of your local medical society.

    So it was really the combination of those policies that resulted in most African-American physicians from being disenfranchised from AMA membership and participation, and that's one of the key findings that resulted in our heartfelt apology that we issued today.

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