SAN ANTONIO (AP) _ Health maintenance organizations have done a poor job of hiring minority doctors and administrators, the new head of the National Medical Association says.

Minority patients often are better served by physicians of the same ethnic background, said Dr. Leonard Lawrence, who on Saturday assumed the presidency of the 16,000-member NMA, the nation's largest black physicians group.

''Who is going to be more likely to sit down with an Hispanic patient who is diabetic, and talk dietary modifications without making the patient feel inferior, (like) someone whose mother raised them on tortillas and beans, if you will?'' said Lawrence, a dean at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Pamela Mittelstadt of the Group Health Association of America in Washington said there's no proof any minority shortage exists. But Lawrence said more needs to be done.

''In some cases African-American physicians have not been invited to join,'' he said at the NMA's 98th annual convention. ''That's where my concern is - who extends the invitation? Who controls the entry?''