Why I'm Excited for the Medical Women’s International Association Conference

It is hard to imagine being a female physician a century ago.

In 1914, the electrocardiograph (EKG) was introduced to the United States. In 1922, insulin was first used to treat diabetes. In 1928, penicillin was discovered in London and it was not until 1942 that it was used to treat infections in humans.

Founded in 1919, the Medical Women’s International Association (MWIA) is one of the oldest professional international non-governmental organization (NGO) representing medical women from around the world. The first meeting was held in New York with 140 guests from 16 nations. At that time, only four countries had medical women associations — United States, England, India, and Japan — as many countries barred women from studying medicine.

The introduction of women in medicine had been a long process. It had been 165 years prior that the first female doctor, Dr. Dorothea Erxleben, was granted a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree in Germany in 1754 and 50 years prior that Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell became the first American woman to receive the M.D. degree in New York in 1849. In that era, social restrictions excluded women from the profession, and women had to fight to even be allowed to attend medical school, pursue internship training in hospitals/clinics, and practice medicine as clinicians. In 1914, only four percent of U.S. medical students were women.

Fast forward 100 years. The American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) is proud to host the MWIA Centennial Congress in New York, NYC, on July 25-28, 2019 in an unprecedented opportunity to network with the largest assembly of women in medicine from all over the world. In 2018, women comprise half of the incoming medical students in the U.S. and slightly over one-third of all practicing physicians, though the inter-specialty range is wide with females comprising nearly two-thirds of practicing pediatricians but only five percent of orthopedic surgeons.

The MWIA and AMWA’s mission is to advocate for and empower women in medicine to reach their full potential in all aspects for medicine, and to advocate for women’s health issues with the aim of improving the health of women and girls in society at large. The keynote speaker for the MWIA Centennial Congress is Gloria Steinem, an internationally renowned feminist, author, and speaker who is recognized worldwide for her trailblazing work on women’s rights. Other highlights of the Congress include global health, gender and health, women’s health, physician leadership, innovations in healthcare, work-life balance, violence against women, and sexual harassment.

Medical students and residents will benefit from a dedicated track for trainees, which includes sessions on building career skills and procedural proficiency — including a panel discussion on succeeding in academic medicine and grant writing, a hands-on ultrasound workshop, and lectures on refining presentation skills for clinicians, building resilience, and mentorship. A residency fair with program representatives from around the United States will be present to engage with the attendees.

While gender parity in medicine has yet to become a reality, we hope the MWIA Centennial Congress can remind us of the progress over the past 100 years, and to celebrate what our society has achieved. As Gloria Steinem, to turned 84 years old this year, has said, "we need to remember across generations that there is as much to learn as there is to teach."

The Centennial Congress of the Medical Women’s International Association will be hosted by American Medical Women’s July 25-28, 2019 at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott, New York City, USA. Attendees have the opportunity to present poster abstracts. Abstract submissions are accepted through March 31, 2019. For more information about the conference and to submit an abstract, please contact <conference@amwa-resident.org> or visit: https://www.amwa-doc.org/mwia100/

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