The first association of doctors in Bulgaria was established in 1880 in Sofia and was named "Physico- medical Society". It was founded by Dr. Dimitar Mollov with the main aim to discuss medical and professional issues, prevention, prophylaxis and treatment of various diseases.
The idea of launching an association of doctors in Bulgaria was mentioned two years earlier by Dr. Stoyko Yurdanov. On the 12th of March 1878, he wrote a letter from Turno Severin to Dr. Ivan Slavkov, a physician from Turnovo, calling for establishment of a medical society.
In his letter, Dr. Yurdanov wrote: As we got together with several of our brothers, reminding ourselves of the suffering of our Bulgarian brothers that we know, doctors and medical graduates, ……… .., who are scattered in different places, we decided to approach all those brothers to come to an agreement, discuss and decide, all together, and to form a medical society that will unite us, bring us closer and even enrich our special medical knowledge. With this society we will show the educated peoples that we want to work and follow the path of education and freedom of developed nations.
Dr Yurdanov did not live to see his idea launched. Yet, on the 10th of December 1883, nine medical doctors established Varna Medical Society. Dr. Mihail V. Ignatiev was elected Chairperson and among the members was d-r Boris Abramovich Ox – founder of the first Bulgarian Institute for production of smallpox vaccine. In 1895 the Ruse Scientific Medical Society was established, and two years later a similar organization was launched in Plovdiv. The initiative spread to the cities of Vratsa, Lovech, Pleven, Shumen, Sofia and others.
In 1900, by initiative of the Plovdiv Medical Society, 14 similar organizations in the country united in Union of Physicians in Bulgaria. The initiative was welcomed by Varna Medical Society. Building on this momentum, the Bulgarian Medical Association was founded in 1901.
Thus, the professional organization of medical doctors in Bulgaria is the second professional organisation of physicians in the world. Initially, BMA was focused on promoting and protecting the rights of medical doctors and determining the fee -for-service. Incrementally, the role and functions of the Association grew and BMA became an important factor in organizing medical care in the country. Bulgarian Medical Association drafted and oversaw health policy as there was no Ministry of Health at the time.
First chairperson of BMA was Dr. Dimitar Mollov. A set of crucial norms and rules were adopted until 1947 which included requirement for practicing medicine, moral and ethical code of conduct and financial standards between doctors and patients. At the Second Medical Congress, the delegates launched their own journal “Annals of the Medical Association”. Membership during this period was mandatory.
Bulgarian Medical Association was dissolved by the communist authorities in 1947, BMA property was confiscated and its members became the subject of various persecutions. During this period, the authorities inflicted enormous damage to the medical profession, reducing medical doctor from a free, creative professionals into civil servants at the lowest social level. The abolition of private practice followed in 1971. The medical profession did not have its own professional organization, but was part of the so-called Trade Union of health workers - a formal organization serving the government.
After 1989 transition to democracy, gradual unification of the profession began, 28 independent regional colleges were established. On the 13th of 1990, Bulgarian Medical Association was restored and Prof. Dr. Ivan Kirov was elected Chairperson during the 27th “Re-establishment” Congress. Today, more than 32,000 medical doctors are members of BMA. The Bulgarian Medical Association continues to promote and protect the interests of physicians, which also represent societal interests.
Initially, temporary vice-presidents were elected - Prof. Dr. Dimitar Radonov (he had the courage to speak publicly in support of the re-establishment of BMA during totalitarian regime), Dr. Trias Mavromatis and Dr. Emil Peychev. BMA publication resumed under a new name- Quo Vadis. Later in November 1990 additional vice- chairpersons were elected- Dr. Ivan V. Ivanov, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Milan Milanov and Dr. Atanas Shterev.
Two years later, Dr. Dimiter Ignatov, surgeon from Queen Giovanna hospital (ISUL) was elected Chairperson of BMA. He led BMA for 10 years (1992-2002). During his tenure, vice- chairpersons were Dr. Anton Vazharov, Dr. Drago Zhelev, Dr. Ilko Semerdzhiev, Dr. Petko Kasabov, Dr. Milan Milanov and Dr. Andrey Kehayov. During this period, medical doctors and dentists were joint in one single organization registered under the Law of Individuals and Families.
Bulgarian Medical Association became independent professional organization of medical doctors when the Law on professional organisations of medical doctors and dentists was adopted in 1999. Under this Law, professional organizations of doctors and dentists were established - Bulgarian Medical Association (BMA) and Bulgarian Dental Association which also stipulated rules and regulations for practicing medicine and dentistry, code of conduct and medical ethics. According to the law, all doctors and dentists who want to practice their profession in Bulgaria must be members of Bulgarian Medical Association, respectively Bulgarian Dental Association.
The two professional associations draft Codes of Professional Ethics for medical doctors, and respectively dentists, exercise control as well as impose sanctions for violations of legal provisions. Requirements for membership of BMA are specified and membership becomes effective after enrolment in the respective professional regional college. It is provided that medical doctors and dentists are responsible for their professional conduct. Sanctions for misconduct are stipulated as well.
In addition, the Law obliges the Council of Ministers, regional governors and municipalities to provide in foreseeable deadlines BMA and Bulgarian Dental Association with state or municipal premises for their administrative functioning.
In conclusion, it was recognized that the Bulgarian Medical Association is the rightful successor of Bulgarian Medical Association, established in 1901, and Bulgarian Dental Association is the successor of Bulgarian Dental Union (est.1905). This law is considered the greatest achievement of the BMA Leadership of the time as it promoted the status and responsibility of the professional organisation as representative of Bulgarian medical doctors. The Chairperson Dr. D. Ignatov also served as member of Bulgarian National Assembly.
At the regular April 2002 Congress, the delegates adopted an amendment to the Statute, which excludes members of Parliament from running for governing bodies of the Association. Thus, Dr. Andrey Kehayov was elected Chairperson of BMA - he worked as a surgeon in the town of Rudozem, and has business interests in oil trade, printing services and hospitality. He is also former Chairperson of Regional College of Smolyan, as well as Vice- chairperson of BMA. Dr. Georgi Sakakushev from Plovdiv /vascular surgeon/ and Dr. Ivan Galabov from Varna /pediatrician/ were elected Vice- Chairpersons. Dr. A. Kehayov’s first mandate ended in 2005 and he was immediately re-elected during the 2005 BMA Congress in Sofia, his Vice Chairpersons were Dr. Georgi Sakakushev and Dr. Tsvetan Raichinov from Ruse /gynecologist/.
After introduction of health insurance in Bulgaria, Bulgarian Medical Association is required by Law to participate in National Framework Contract negotiations as professional organisation, representing the interests of medical doctors. Until 2006, the Association played significant role in drafting the National Framework Contract, yet the role was gradually reduced after amendments voted by the then parliamentary majority were adopted.
In 2008, the Management Board of BMA did not comply with the Statute of Association and legal provisions and for more than 6 months after the end of mandate refused to convene a Congress for electing new governing bodies, despite the request of three quarters of BMA Regional Colleges. This precedent demanded an amendment to the Law, which stated that if a Congress is not convened within the legal deadlines, it is convened by the Minister of Health.
The amendment was voted unanimously in Parliament. Thus, the Minister of Health Dr. Evgeniy Zhelev convened BMA Congress between the 9th and 11th of January 2009 in Sofia. It was well attended by delegates from all over the country and the new leadership of the Association was elected with landslide majority. The Chairperson was Dr. Bozhidar Nanev from Varna who has three surgical specialties. Vice Chairpersons were Dr. Tsvetan Raichinov and Dr. Stefan Konstantinov from Kyustendil / gynecologist /.
On January 18-21, 2009, Dr. Andrey Kehayov convened an alternative Congress in the town of Sandanski, where, due to the scarce presence of delegates, the Congress could not claim to be legal. Reports were presented but as there was lack of quorum, the Congress was dissolved. In the meantime, the newly elected leadership of BMA was recognized by all official institutions - National Assembly, political parties, the Ministry of Health, the National Health Insurance Fund, international organizations of which BMA is a member.
On July 27, 2009, the Parliament voted in the first cabinet of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, and the then President of the Bulgarian Medical Association, Dr. Bozhidar Nanev, was appointed Minister of Health. On October 17, 2009, the 47th Extraordinary Congress elected Dr. Tsvetan Raichinov - obstetrician-gynecologist from Ruse, former Vice Chairperson, Chairperson of BMA. On October 6, 2010 the Deputy Chairperson of BMA Dr. St. Konstantinov was appointed Minister of Health after Prof. Anna-Maria Borisova left the ministerial seat. His position as Vice- Chairperson was taken by Dr. Julian Yordanov, who was elected during the 51st Extraordinary Congress of BMA.
The main issues on which Association focuses its attention are medical and professional ethics. Large teams of representatives of the scientific medical community, experts, famous Bulgarian specialists take part in their implementation.
The Bulgarian Medical Association continues to promote and protect professional interests, which are also societal interests – the Association also raises awareness about the lack of political will to complete the health reform, highlights the lack of a clear healthcare sector development strategy in Bulgaria and indicates as symptomatic the brain drain of Bulgarian doctors who leave the country to pursue their careers elsewhere.
The Bulgarian Medical Association undertakes a number of regular meetings and debates with the Ministry of Health, the Parliamentary Committee of Health, with scientific and public organizations etc. as well as it drafts amendments to existing laws on professional organizations, health law, medical law and others.
Additional priorities within the Board’s mandate until March 2012 were to study foreign experience in the field of healthcare management, how Medical Chambers outline and manage the system of continuing education and qualification, how rules for good practice are elaborated.
Between the 9th and 11th of March 2012, the 54th BMA Congress was held. Dr. Tsvetan Raichinov was re-elected with 2/3 of the vote. Both Vice Chairpersons, Dr. Julian Yordanov and Dr. Georgi Stavrakev, as well as the Secretary General, Dr. Dimitar Lenkov, were unanimously re-elected as well. Dr. Petko Zagorchev / Shumen / was elected Head of the Ethics Committee while the Control Committee was led by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Lyubomir Alexiev /Military Hospital-Sofia/. Thus, the Congress demonstrated their support for the Management Board for another three-year term.
On the 8th of May 2015, the 63rd BMA Congress was held. Dr. Ventsislav Grozev was elected Chairman of BMA, Vice-Chairpersons: -Prof. Dr. Ognyan Hadjiiski and Dr. Galinka Pavlova, and General Secretary - Dr. Stoyan Borisov. The Ethics Commission is headed by Dr. Petko Zagorchev, and the Control Commission - by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Stoyan Sopotenski. For the first time, the position of Chairperson of the Accreditation Council was established in order to manage Continuing Medical Education (CPD) issues. Dr. Julian Yordanov was elected its first Chairperson.
Between the 8th and 10th of June 8-10 2018, the 68th BMA Congress was held. Dr. Ivan Madzharov was elected BMA Chairman, Prof. Dr. Nikolay Gabrovsky and Dr. Nikolay Branzalov were elected Vice Chairpersons and Dr. Stoyan Borisov was re-elected Secretary General. The Ethics Committee is presided by Dr. Julia Biankova, and the Control Committee - by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Stoyan Sopotenski.