Lila Wallis, MD was a university student when the German Army invaded and occupied her homeland in 1939. She became a member of the Polish underground resistance, secretly caring for members of the underground and teaching Polish to local children when the Germans closed the schools. The realities of war convinced her of the value of medicine to society.
Dr. Wallis came to the U.S. in 1946 and received her B.A. in Chemistry from Barnard College (1947, Summa Cum Laude) and her MD from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons (1951, AOA). She completed her residency in internal medicine in 1956 at The New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, specializing in Hematology and Endocrinology/Metabolism. She then worked at the Strang Clinic where Dr. May Chinn, the first African-American woman to complete a residency at Bellevue Hospital taught her the art of the competent and painless pelvic exam.
Dr. Wallis is an authority on osteoporosis, estrogen therapy, and menopause. A dedicated educator, she instituted the “Update Your Medicine” program at Cornell in 1974, one of the first, and now the longest-running CME program in the U.S.
In 1979, she created the Teaching Associates program at Cornell University Medical College which specially trained health professionals to provide instruction and feedback to students as they developed more sensitive and competent breast and pelvic exams and male genitorectal exams. She helped introduce similar programs to other New York City medical schools.
Dr. Wallis has published the Textbook of Women’s Health (1998) for professionals and The Whole Woman: Take Charge of Your Health in Every Phase of Your Life (co-authored with Marian Betancourt, 1999) for the public. She served on numerous editorial boards (including the Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association, Journal of Women’s Health, Rodale Books on Women’s Health, and the National Academy on Women’s Health Medical Education). She received many awards, appeared nationally on Good Morning America, Today, CNN News, NPR’s Talk of the Nation, and World News with Peter Jennings and has spoken at over one hundred programs before medical and non-medical audiences.
Colleagues describe Lila A. Wallis, M.D., as “the godmother of women’s health.” For half a century she has been a leading advocate for women’s rights to high standards of compassionate care and a partnership role in decisions about their treatment.