Year of Graduation


Level of Access

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Department or Program


First Advisor

David K Hecht


This thesis examines the intersection of race and professionalism in healthcare as they relate specifically to the debate over universal healthcare. It begins with the National Medical Association (NMA), a professional organization for Black physicians founded in 1895. The first two chapters follow the NMA as they attempt to navigate the two allegiances they have: one to be "race men," and work for racial equity in healthcare, and one to be professionals, and work towards affirming their professional sovereignty. The narrative begins in 1945, when President Harry Truman backed the first substantial proposal for a system of nationalized healthcare. Chapter two discusses the 1960s and how the confluence of the Great Society and the civil rights movement provided Black doctors with an opportunity to successfully serve both aspects of their identities. The third chapters explores the 1970s and the events following the passage of Medicare and Medicaid. The NMA began to align itself more closely with the American Medical Association (AMA), which had long-embodied the medical establishment. When this alignment occurred, the Black Panther party offered an alternative method of addressing racial health inequities that rejected not only the notion of healthcare as a commodity, but the entire national identity associated with the free market within which physicians sold care. This thesis considers how the interests of patients and the interests of doctors do and do not align, using race to bring this tension into high relief.