A Century of Service
By Sean Price Texas Medicine March 2018

 The TMA alliance is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2018

At first, they were called the “visiting ladies.” In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the wives of Texas doctors would gather for social events such as automobile tours (a big deal back then) and receptions whenever their husbands met as the Texas Medical Association. 

By 1918, the United States had entered World War I, and women all over the country were looking for ways to contribute more to society.

The visiting ladies decided to create a formal organization: the Woman’s Auxiliary to the Texas Medical Association.

One of the chief organizers, Mrs. H.R. Dudgeon, of Waco, said, “The three-fold motive for the organization will be patriotism, philanthropy, and social.”

Although most were well-educated and prominent, those women faced strong pressure to stay in their place socially. When the new group held its first statewide meeting in San Antonio on May 15, 1918, women were still two years away from voting, and it was assumed that every woman wanted to be a homemaker.

What a difference a century makes.

Today, that group for doctors’ wives has morphed into the TMA Alliance, a powerful political, community, and service organization that relies on the volunteer efforts of both men and women, both physicians and spouses. On May 17, the alliance will celebrate 100 years of service to the Family of Medicine at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa.

Today’s TMA Alliance has taken on a dual role: political advocacy on behalf of medicine and public health promotion for TMA campaigns such as Be Wise — Immunize, Hard Hats for Little Heads, and Walk With A Doc, along with many locally driven service projects.

“The purpose of the alliance is to partner with TMA to improve the health of all Texans, and that is going to continue to be the purpose, no matter what form that takes,” said Karen Lairmore, of Belton, the 2017–18 president. “So 100 years ago, it was rolling bandages for [World War I soldiers]. Now, it’s putting hard hats on little heads or making sure that kids have shots — or whatever other needs the community needs us to fill.”

One of the signature achievements of the TMA Alliance is the 2003 creation of First Tuesdays at the Capitol lobbying days. Susan Todd, alliance president in 2002–03, came up with the idea as a way to boost lobbying on behalf of health care liability reforms.

Now, on the first Tuesday of every month during state legislative sessions, hundreds of physicians, medical students, and alliance members descend on Austin to share their views with lawmakers.

“We were trying to come up with some sort of hook to get our members down [to the Capitol] for grassroots lobbying to get [liability reform] passed,” Ms. Todd said. “And it was such a success that we just kept doing it.”

TMA Alliance members also serve on the boards of TEXPAC and the TMA Foundation, and they are voting members of many TMA councils and committees.

The days of being a “ladies” organization vanished as more women became physicians. In 2008, Patrick Hearn became the organization’s first male president. There haven’t been any others yet, and men still make up a small percentage of the statewide 4,000 membership.

But Mr. Hearn says many county alliances, like the one he belongs to in Wichita County, have strong representation from men.

“That’s because we encourage both the physician and the spouse to join,” he said.

Local alliance chapters also work on community-based projects, including fundraising for scholarships and community grants. Ms. Lairmore said the Alliance will continue to do what it has always done – adapt to the changing times.

“The future role of the Alliance is going to change,” she said. “We’re not the same organization we were 100 years ago. We’re not the same organization we were 25 years ago. So it’s kind of silly to think that we’ll be the same organization even 10 years from now. But we will still be working our mission, which is to improve the health of Texans in whatever form that takes.”

Tex Med. 2018;114(3):40–43

March 2018 Texas Medicine Contents
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Last Updated On

March 08, 2018

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Sean Price

Reporter

(512) 370-1392

Sean Price is a reporter for Texas Medicine and Texas Medicine Today. He grew up in Fort Worth and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. He's worked as an award-winning writer and editor for a variety of national magazine, book, and website publishers in New York and Washington. He's also helped produce Texas-based marketing campaigns designed to promote public health. Sean lives in Austin and enjoys hiking, photography, and spending time with his wife and two sons.

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