AMWAThe board room in the Western Pavilion Conference Center was filled beyond capacity already; still, as the inaugural meeting for the American Medical Women’s Association began, women continued to slip through the door in the back, lunches in hand. More than 40 attendees filled the chairs and ranged along the back wall to find out what the presence of AMWA at the UAB SOM would mean for them.

“Why should you care about joining this organization?” Lauren Walter, MD, an assistant professor of emergency medicine asked the crowd. “Because women in medicine still are not operating on a level playing field. Even accounting for factors such as maternity leave, women still make significantly less than their male counterparts.”

The American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) was founded in 1915, the first national organization of women physicians at a time when collective representation was desperately needed. Although more women medical students are enrolling than ever before in American history, women are still underrepresented at the highest levels of academic medicine and experience lower rates of pay and promotion than their male colleagues – making collectiveGroup picture representation, support, and networking as important as ever.

The UAB School of Medicine’s Office for Diversity & Inclusion (ODI), headed by Mona Fouad, MD, Senior Associate Dean for Diversity & Inclusion, worked with Dr. Walter to reinstitute the AMWA Chapter that formerly existed at the UABSOM. Evelyn Jones, business consultant to the ODI, spearheaded the administrative effort to reopen the chapter.

Dr. Fouad opened the meeting with an overview of the Office for Diversity & Inclusion and why its work at UAB is important. The Diversity Engagement Survey, an AAMC-designed mechanism for evaluating sentiments and actions related to diversity and inclusion, was administered to all faculty, trainees, and students in October 2015; preliminary results indicate that a multifaceted approach to increasing diversity awareness and confronting discrimination is of critical importance.

P1000799Following Fouad’s presentation, Dr. Walter explained AMWA and its mission to assist women physicians, trainees and students. Membership in the UAB branch of AMWA will be free for the time being; fees apply to be part of the national organization.

Attendees were invited to ask questions at the conclusion of Dr. Walter’s remarks. “As a young faculty member with young children,” one woman asked, “things like maternity leave, on-site child care, and pumping stations are all very important to me. Is this something that this group will want to deal with?”

“That’s absolutely something that we want to discuss,” Dr. Walter said.

“Maybe this can be a good group to bring in all the women in medicine,” Dr. Fouad said. “This can be a way for all of us to get together, without women in each division needing to develop their own group separately. I’m hoping that this AMWA chapter can be our way of communication about issues, getting feedback, and making life here as working faculty easier on us.”

Positions are currently open for officers and committee members for the new AMWA chapter. For questions about how to get involved, or to be sent more information about the chapter as it commences operations, contact Evelyn Jones at evejones@uab.edu, or Lauren Walter at lawalter@uab.edu.