95 Years of the American Medical Women’s Association

95 Years of the American Medical Women’s Association

In the mid 1970s women physicians made up a minority of physicians in the United States, and they routinely joined the AMWA. As you can imagine, things have changed since then.

Women today are become the predominant practitioners of medicine. Starting in the 1980s women have consistently made up at least 50% of medical school classes, so more than half of new physicians are women.

At the same time, though, the fraction of women who join AMWA seems to have dropped. One reason, spelled out by blogger and psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Bremer, is that women physicians often see themselves as Physicians, not Women Physicians. A logical and rational self-image, especially given the social context that developed over the course of the last 30 years.

The face of medicine is changing, but hospital and practice management positions are still occupied mostly by men – so while the majority of new physicians are women, policies too often reflect the needs of the previous generation. Women physicians are highly respected, but there are important gender issues. Our own surveys show just a few of the places where these issues surface:

  • Even when working 50 to 80 hours a week, more than 80% of resident physicians either shared child care responsibilities equally or were the primary childcare providers (from MomMD Work-life balance survey results: child care). This is not likely the case for male physician residents.
  • Pressure on women to delay having children comes from several sources – even mentors.
  • Less than 40% of women enter practices that have a formal maternity leave policy, requiring negotiation of maternity leave after the physician gets pregnant, or even more uncomfortably, during the interview/hiring process (MomMD poll on maternity leave).
  • A mother-physician’s child-rearing responsibilities go up after residency, to the point where female physicians are more likely to be the primary child-care provider than are non-physician mothers (from MomMD Work-life balance survey results: child care).

AMWA’s mission

With growth in the number of women physicians, the need for professional advocacy has also grown. And that’s where AMWA comes in.

As the main professional society advocating for female physicians, AMWA embraces the perspective of women in medicine. AMWA’s stated mission is:

The American Medical Women’s Association is an organization which functions at the local, national, and international level to advance women in medicine and improve women’s health. We achieve this by providing and developing leadership, advocacy, education, expertise, mentoring, and through building strategic alliances.

MomMD believes in AMWA’s mission, and we feel that active advocacy on behalf of women in medicine is important. That’s why we are pleased to see the continued vibrancy of AMWA and the high-profile role it has taken in Washington and abroad.

And that’s also why we support AMWA’s membership drive, and hope that you will add your name to the AMWA rolls.

AMWA membership drive information

  • Membership in AMWA confers dual membership in the Medical Women International Association (MWIA).
  • Membership is discounted to $95 (normally $225) in honor of AMWA’s 95th Anniversary. This offer expires July 31.
  • Become a member of AMWA.