In 1997, with the leadership of Dr. Louis Sullivan, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and President Emeritus of Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM), Congress awarded 7.5 million for MSM to establish the National Center for Primary Care (NCPC). Through generous contributions from other private and public entities, Morehouse School of Medicine opened its brand-new 120,000 sq. ft. facility in the Fall of 2002. It became the first congressionally sanctioned center to develop programs that strengthened the primary care system for health equity and sustainability. The National Center for Primary Care became the umbrella for the programs that were currently focusing on community-oriented prevention and primary care for low-income minority and other underserved populations.
This diverse and interdisciplinary group all worked to carry out the Center’s Vision: Achieving Equitable and Optimal Healthcare through Primary Care for All. Early on we found our voice in the national conversation on primary care, health policy and health disparities. We built culturally relevant educational programs for minority health professionals, developed critical resources for primary care providers and generated evidenced based research and scholarly writings. We worked to not only raise concerns regarding inequities in healthcare but to also provide a network of services and resources.
Over the years the Center has had many prominent leaders.
- In 2002, David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D., 16th U.S. Surgeon General and Assistant Secretary for Health took the helm of the new center. With his thorough understanding of the interplay between population health and policy, he secured our role as experts on health disparities.
- In 2005, George Rust, M.D., M.P.H. became the second director of NCPC. A prolific researcher and former frontline clinician, Dr. Rust focused on expanding the Center by deepening its health disparities research portfolio and increasing the connection with and understanding of the underserved population. He was instrumental in building bridges between the academic arenas and the front lines of primary care by developing training programs and health quality-outcomes research partnerships.
- In 2015, Dominic H. Mack, M.D., M.B.A., stepped into the director role. A Family Practitioner and prior FQHC medical director with a strong business acumen, Dr. Mack brought with him a keen understanding of the concerns and challenges facing practitioners in underserved and under resourced areas from both the clinical and business perspectives. An early adopter of electronic medical records and a strong believer in the importance of technology’s role in leveling the playing field for small practices, Dr. Mack saw new avenues for assisting front line practitioners. Building on the $21 million ONC grant NCPC received in 2009, which he directed as the then co-director of NCPC, Dr. Mack expanded the Center’s grant and contract portfolio in the area of health Information technology. In addition to its expertise in health equity policy, research and training, NCPC is now a respected expert in HIT.
As the future unfolds, we will continue to grow in depth and strength to provide a holistic and integrated approach to support those heroes working on the front lines of primary care for the vulnerable and underserved, such as:
- Continuing to grow partnerships such as the Southeastern Clinicians Regionals Network, Partnership for Health Diabetes Equity learning community and relationships with community-based organizations to help us stay connected to those we serve.
- Analyzing large data sets on Medicaid and the uninsured gives us the power to measure health outcomes at the level of communities in need and to improve population health.
- Providing critical training to help practitioners as they continue to address the deepening crisis of addiction through our Southeastern Addiction Technology and Transfer Center, funded since 1993.
- Our Faculty Development Program ensures those teaching our future physicians are well trained and view their work through the health equity lens. As health information technology continue to grow as a critical part of the healthcare landscape, we will continue to work with practitioners to ensure they can effectively and efficiently integrate technology into their practices.
In our relatively short history, we have grown quickly and have developed an impressive breadth of programs and strategic partners. Yet, in many ways, the National Center for Primary Care is just hitting its stride. As we move forward, we will continue to focus on our mission of: Strengthening the Primary Care system through education, research, and training to improve health outcomes while advancing and sustaining health equity.