A Visit with AMWA Past President Dr. Lila Wallis
By Dr. Eliza Chin, AMWA Executive Director
This week, while on our way to the Mayo GRIT for Women in Medicine conference, AMWA President Dr. Roberta Gebhard and I had the good fortune of visiting Past President Dr. Lila Wallis.
At age 98 years, Dr. Lila Wallis is still actively reading, writing, and – still advocating for AMWA! “I encourage young women to go into medicine and become members of AMWA,” she said with a smile. Dr. Wallis was president of AMWA from 1988-1989, and clearly her love for the organization has not waned over the decades. She highlighted the hallmark of AMWA’s multi-specialty membership. “I encourage members of AMWA to network across specialties because the territory where many specialties are expressed or researched is the most fertile for new applications in medicine in general – not only in medicine but across specialties in physics and in other sciences.”
Dr. Roberta Gebhard recalled how Dr. Wallis was a mentor to her in her early years as a family practitioner. “I remember when I lived in Montana, and I saw you on TV, testifying in Congress. That was when I first joined AMWA. You were an inspiration to me!”
Even now, Dr. Wallis continues to mentor and offer sage advice. She recommends that women physicians keep a diary. “I think we don’t realize…how rapidly medicine is changing. The adjustment that the physician has to make in order to adjust to the change requires quite a bit of agility. Everyone does it in a different way.” Back in her day, Dr. Wallis was at the forefront of change. She was a pioneer at a time when women’s health was becoming a recognized field. She promoted new ways of teaching the pelvic exam to medical students that ensured sensitivity to patients and also wrote a widely praised book on how to start an onsite daycare center at medical institutions. And finally, she concluded with a message that just might become our new membership renewal slogan—“…Keep the ties with AMWA for a source of ideas.”
AMWA awards the annual Dr. Lila Wallis Women’s Health Award; this year’s recipient is Dr. Susan Kornstein, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Women’s Health.