Historic Medical Organization Supports Women at the U Interested in Medicine

Back to Article
Back to Article

Historic Medical Organization Supports Women at the U Interested in Medicine

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

For over a century, the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) has been supporting women in the medical field. The organization was started in 1915 — a time when women were extremely underrepresented in medicine.

Until the mid-19th century, women were legally and socially barred from obtaining formal medical educations. In 1847, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman in the United States to be accepted into medical school, although her admission came as the result of a practical joke. Despite being segregated from her male peers and frequently excluded from labs, Blackwell graduated top of her class in 1849 becoming the first woman to obtain a medical degree in the US.

Decades later and 15 years after the inception of AMWA, the prospects for women applying to medical school in the US had seen little improvement. A report published by the Departments of Education and the Interior indicated that 20,545 new students enrolled in American medical schools in 1930. According to the American Medical Women’s Association, 285 of those students were women, amounting to less than 2 percent of admissions.

From it’s outset, AMWA became involved in politics and policy. They collaborated with the Women’s Joint Congressional Committee, Association of American Medical Colleges, American Medical Association and the U.S. Department of Health Education and Welfare to help prove that women physicians’ performance could meet medical standards, contrary to common belief at the time. These partnerships allowed AMWA to expand women’s access to medical school and high-level positions after graduation.

Today women are much closer to gender parity in medical school enrollment and graduation, and are continuing to progress in medical field employment. AMWA now works to address issues surrounding women’s health, as well as provide mentorship and support for women seeking medical degrees.

Early on, AMWA “realized training the next generation of women physician leaders required communication of ‘unwritten rules’ of successful career advancement at the beginning of a woman’s medical career, a practice still in place in AMWA today.” Their goals are to “[function] at the local, national, and international level to advance women in medicine and improve women’s health.” To do this, they “[provide] and [develop] leadership, advocacy, education, expertise, mentoring, and strategic alliances.

According to Kelly Hoerger, one of the group’s co-presidents for the University of Utah’s chapter, they do this by “connecting U students with female doctors who host the students for dinners.” She said, “This casual setting allows students to learn and seek mentorship from women in the medical field, ask challenging questions and get to know what being a female in medicine was or is currently like.”

Hoerger said they are associated with another group called Women in Medicine, which “hosts workshops and conferences that are open for AMWA members to attend”. Overall, she said, “we work to promote advancing and increasing the number of women in medicine by having a presence on campus that is supportive, engaging and fun.”

Notable AMWA members at the U include Dr. Vivian S. Lee, Senior Vice President for Health Sciences, Dean of the School of Medicine, and CEO of University of Utah Health Care.


[email protected]