History of AMWA and the AMA-Women’s Physician Congress
In 1996 at an annual meeting of the American Medical Association (AMA), AMWA’s status as ‘Observer’ was changed to delegate and Diana Dell was appointed by AMWA to represent AMWA to the House of Delegates (HOD) while Debra Judelson was listed as the alternate. The House of Delegates is the principal policy-making body of the American Medical Association.
This was a critical time as the ‘partial birth abortion’ controversy was ongoing. The AMA Board had made a decision to support the GOP led Congress, which had first passed a similar law banning “partial-birth abortion” in December 1995, (then and later in October 1997). The congress supported laws were vetoed by President Bill Clinton. Since this was to be policy of the AMA and the House had not been allowed to weigh in, our delegates, and others crafted an emergency resolution proposing to overturn the AMA Board’s decision to support this so-called ‘partial birth abortion’ ban. It was very controversial and this controversy gave AMWA an opportunity to speak, to raise awareness, and to promote AMWA.
In 1996, AMWA was contacted by the AMA Advisory Panel on Women Physician Issues, and asked to represent AMWA at their meeting. This group’s charge was to increase the participation of women in the AMA as well as to develop programs that would benefit women physicians/students/residents. Debra Judelson was our representative to this group and was instrumental in the development of the Women’s Physician Congress (WPC) which consists of more than 67,000 female members of the AMA. The aim was to increase the number and influence of women physicians in leadership roles and to advocate for and advance the understanding of women’s health issues. AMWA felt we shared some common goals and that being a partner would be beneficial to both groups. All women AMA members are now automatically members of the WPC.
AMWA has a reserved seat on the WPC Governing Council and Debra Judelson was our first AMWA delegate to the WPC and served as the Vice-Chair initially and became the Chair of the Governing Council for the WPC from 2000-2003. AMWA’s issues were prominently promoted and we were successful in getting issues relevant for women in the limelight — an example was having a breast-feeding room adjacent to the house with a sound/video feed, so that women with infants could attend. Over the years, the AMWA delegate has been able to caucus with many women, and like-minded men, on a number of issues and along with the WPC council AMWA representative, have promoted women physicians and women’s health both nationally and locally.
AMWA has continued to have special status in the AMA. Our current AMWA delegate to the House of Delegates is Nancy Church, MD and our AMA-WPC Governing Council member is Neelum Aggarwal, MD.