April 4, 2018
Connie Newman MD, FACP, FAHA, FAMWA
AMWA President 2018 – 2019
Dear AMWA Colleagues,
I am honored to serve you as President of the American Medical Women’s Association. I will do my best to carry out the responsibilities entrusted to me, guided by previous experiences, and knowing that you will be there to help me.
I would like to express my gratitude to all the physicians and students in AMWA who have made my work so meaningful and enjoyable. I would particularly like to thank the AMWA Presidents who preceded me for their guidance and trust. I am grateful to my family, especially my husband, Dr. Jonathan Tobert, and children, David, Daniel and Vanessa. They have contributed to my life through their love, creativity, humor and support for my work as a doctor.
In AMWA we value mentoring. As you read this letter please think about those people who helped you in your journey through medicine. My first mentor was my father, a pediatrician who was the son of immigrants. He was relatively poor growing up and worked his way through college and medical school. He was a solo practitioner, with an office connected to our home. My three brothers (all doctors today) and I could hear babies crying or children talking when we were in our living room. My Dad inspired me to become a doctor. He loved being a pediatrician and would tell me about the house calls that he made, sometimes late at night and in dangerous neighborhoods, and how he was paid with food, such as an apple pie, when the family could not afford his small fee. His stories of his work in a contagious disease hospital during the polio epidemic of the 1940’s made me realize that being a doctor required commitment, compassion and courage.
When I was 12, I had the courage to envision my future career in medicine, despite the fact that most doctors in the 1960’s were men. My father introduced me to three women doctors that worked in our hometown, Passaic, NJ. He made the point of telling me that women could be great doctors and talked about Dr. Helen Taussig, an early pediatric cardiologist (perhaps the first) who collaborated on research that led to an operation that cured “blue baby syndrome”, caused by a congenital heart malformation. My mother, who had not yet finished college and stayed at home taking care of the family, introduced me to the American Medical Women’s Association, when I was in high school. She was so pleased when her friend and our next door neighbor, Dr. Laura Morrow became President of AMWA in 1968. Dr. Morrow, a psychiatrist, was the mother of our esteemed photographer and AMWA member Mary Ellen Morrow.
In Dr. Morrow’s inaugural AMWA speech, about 50 years ago, she said the following which is relevant today: “All the strong and brave women doctors from Elizabeth Blackwell on have made a respectful place for women in medicine. It is our job to maintain their standards of excellence and service to the community, to help those who still wish to become doctors to achieve their goals.”
She also emphasized the importance of non-medical community service and unmet needs in health areas. Fifty years later we in AMWA have made a lot of progress in supporting family planning and reproductive rights, gender equity, equal pay for equal work, HPV and cervical cancer prevention, and educating doctors about signs of sex trafficking. Our Gun Violence Prevention Task Force has completed their position statement, which will be submitted for publication, and we are beginning a Wellness initiative that will explore burnout, depression, and resilience. We are co-sponsors of a second educational conference on sex and gender medicine with the aim of bringing sex and gender medicine into the curriculum of medical and other health professional schools. We are dedicated to the concept of humanism in medicine and have four groups working on literature, art, music and film. I don’t have the space to highlight everything we do, but I am proud of all our programs. We are definitely making an impact.
For those who know me, and my career in cardiovascular disease prevention, it is not surprising that I am involved in the AMWA Preventive Medicine Task Force (PMTF). My area of focus is obesity, now considered a disease in its own right, which influences other serious disorders such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis, to name a few. The PMTF has just completed our first webinar about the pathophysiology and management of obesity. That is just the beginning- We will continue our work on obesity which affects about one third of the U.S. population.
During the year of my Presidency, I would like AMWA to begin work on another challenging problem in the U.S., opiate addiction, which affects at least 5 million people in the U.S. and causes about 17,000 deaths a year, with this rate growing. The Opiate Addiction Task Force will work under the “umbrella” of Preventive Medicine. If you are interested in participating, please let me know.
As a multispecialty organization with members from all career levels within medicine, AMWA has the opportunity to provide a unique perspective on health and disease, taking women into account. We have the creativity, skills and commitment to find solutions to medical and social problems. We also have the opportunity to mentor each other and develop and nurture leadership skills in all our members. I hope you will continue your involvement in AMWA, and as AMWA Ambassadors spread the word and encourage others to join us. It is critically important that we increase our membership and retain current members so that AMWA can grow, remain vital, and obtain the full recognition it deserves.
It is also important to believe in your own strengths. In the play by Shakespeare, Measure for Measure (Act 1, Scene 4), there is a line, spoken to a woman who doubts she has the power to convince the local ruler to free her brother from prison:
“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win,
By fearing to attempt.”
This is a reminder to me that as women doctors, and AMWA doctors, we should not focus on weaknesses or limitations, but rather recognize our strengths, ask for what we deserve, and have the courage to combat injustice in whatever form. We must speak out and win the good, despite fears and self-doubts.
Thank you for all that you have done for women in medicine and the health of women and our communities. I am honored to be your President and will do all that I can to strengthen and guide AMWA in the coming year.
Connie Newman MD, FACP, FAHA, FAMWA
President, American Medical Women’s Association 2018-2019
Adjunct Professor of Medicine
Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
New York University School of Medicine
New York, NY 10016