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Health & Science

Ohio State Professor Takes Helm At National Medical Association

Leon McDougle is the newest leader of the association that seeks to shrink health disparities among African Americans.
Leon McDougle is the newest leader of the association that seeks to shrink health disparities among African Americans.

An Ohio State University professor is now leading the nation’s oldest association of Black doctors.

Dr. Leon McDougle, a professor of family medicine at Ohio State and the chief diversity officer in the  Department of Family and Community Medicine at the Wexner Medical Center, is the newest president of the  National Medical Association.

McDougle is the 121st president of the association, which was founded in 1895 and works to shrink health disparities and improve access to quality health care for African Americans.

The population has been disproportionately affected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. McDougle says one of the best ways to address that is for President Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act to produce more testing supplies and personal protective equipment. 

He’s also encouraging African Americans and other residents to wear face masks.

“It is absolutely mind-boggling how we as a nation cannot agree to wear facial coverings, thinking that it is some kind of political statement,” McDougle says.

McDougle is also confident that recent protests over racial inequities in policing in Columbus and around the country are already having a positive effect.

“You’ve seen across the country there have been changes proposed and implemented for law enforcement whereby there is more accountability, restructuring of the system of police enforcement and paying more attention to those underlying social determinants of health,” McDougle says.

“Perhaps instead of trying to buy tanks," he continues, "we should be investing in social workers and mental health specialists.”

But perhaps the best way to improve the health of African Americans is to have more Black doctors, which can make people seeking care more comfortable.

“Faculty and students who go on to become practicing physicians are more likely to provide service in communities that have been underserved and are populated by communities of color,” McDougle says. “With the increased diversity of medicine, it provides opportunity for communities of color to have access to culturally-competent providers who can relate to them and negotiating treatment plans that are accepted.”

McDougle is the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s first chief diversity and inclusion officer. In that position, he directs several workforce diversity programs, including the MEDPATH Post-Baccalaureate Program at the College of Medicine. 

A graduate from the College of Medicine himself, McDougle is also a Diplomate of the American Board of Family Medicine and a Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Copyright 2020 WOSU 89.7 NPR News. To see more, visit WOSU 89.7 NPR News.