The Arkansas Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association (AMDPA) was founded in 1893 by a group of African-American medical professionals. Barred from joining local white medical societies and the American Medical Association (AMA), black medical professionals organized their own local associations and national organization.
Trained medical providers began moving into the Arkansas Territory around 1820. In the early 1880s, and in concert with trends in other states, several black physicians organized their own “Colored Medical Association.” These medical professionals were not only interested in the mutual recognition and fraternity offered by the organization; they were also genuinely concerned about the poor state of health among African Americans and the failure of white physicians to adequately address these healthcare needs. In 1893, the organization expanded to include all black medical professionals and became known as the Arkansas Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association.
Over the course of its existence, the AMDPA has been referred to by a number of names in newspapers and journals; these names include the Colored Medical Association of Arkansas (1893), the Arkansas State Colored Medical Association of Arkansas (1898), the Negro State Medical Association (1904), the Pulaski County Association for Black Physicians (1905), and the State Association of Negro Physicians, Dentists, and Pharmacists (1914). In 1905, for example, the popular name of the organization represented the influence of Little Rock (Pulaski County) and some of its more prominent physicians.
In 1931, the AMDPA joined forces with the McRae Memorial Tuberculosis Sanatorium at Alexander (Saline County), a facility for the treatment of African Americans with tuberculosis, to identify, recruit, and hire its first black director, Dr. Hugh A. Browne. In conjunction with the hiring of Browne, the AMDPA soon joined the crusade to halt the spread of tuberculosis in Arkansas.
Since its inception, one of the goals of the AMDPA has been to address health disparities in underserved populations. The AMDPA directed the African-American Adult and Youth Smoking Cessation and Prevention Program, which was funded by the Arkansas Department of Health with tobacco settlement funds. Senior African-American physicians, dentists, and pharmacists also mentor and encourage young, aspiring students to enter the medical profession, and the AMDPA provides financial support through a scholarship program.
The governing body of the AMDPA is a thirteen-member board of directors that includes the Executive Committee and seven additional elected directors. The organization has a quarterly general membership meeting and holds a Scientific Session every year in June. The AMDPA’s membership of 250, as of 2010, is distributed throughout the state, with practices in community health centers, area health education centers (AHECs), the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), private hospitals, and private practice offices.