In recognition of the continued growth in the number of female physicians – both in practice and in leadership roles – the Texas Medical Association House of Delegates this weekend approved the creation of the official Women in Medicine Section.
“We’re excited to be able to fulfill what members wanted and what we think will be a healthy growth for TMA in general,” said Amarillo radiologist Sara Dyrstad, MD, who serves on TMA’s Committee on Membership (pictured above). “To start moving forward is really exciting.”
TMA currently has four sections: medical students, international medical graduates, residents and fellows, and young physicians. Each section can provide input into TMA policy through direct access and representation within the House of Delegates.
The Women in Medicine Section will help develop official policy, programming, and services to ensure that women are well-represented within TMA.
“I have high expectations that the Women in Medicine Section will produce results that will strengthen engagement and representation of female physicians in organized medicine and bring women physicians to association membership ... and even more, to our leadership,” incoming TMA President David Fleeger, MD, said in his acceptance speech at TexMed 2019 last week.
The Women in Medicine Section was borne from a TMA membership survey, which found that despite the growing number of female physicians, the organization had lower membership penetration among female physicians, and that female physicians did not feel engaged.
“A lot of women didn’t have a good way of getting involved in the TMA,” said Round Rock primary care specialist and the chair of TMA’s Committee on Membership, Tina Philip, DO. “They didn’t feel like it represented them, so why get involved if the organization doesn’t represent you?”
From that survey, TMA in 2018 began hosting Women in Medicine Luncheons during official TMA events, such as the annual TexMed conference. The idea to form a section came from a discussion on how TMA could better serve and represent female physicians held at a Women in Medicine Luncheon during the 2018 Fall Conference.
Dr. Philip said creating a Women in Medicine Section had been discussed in the past but never acted upon. Part of the reason for that, she said, was the idea that women should be considered equal to their male colleagues.
“I see the validity in that – you don’t want to be looked down on as less than,” Dr. Philip said. “But at the same time, to just ignore the fact that we have different priorities sometimes and issues that affect the way we practice medicine is a little short-sighted.”
Some of those issues include juggling work and child-birth, sexual discrimination and harassment, and a nationwide salary disparity that continues despite recent gains.
“If you’re following the news at all, there are multiple women’s issues – it’s constantly a problem – so what better than to have a section for women to discuss issues that are specific to women in medicine?” Dr. Philip said. “There are things that women physicians deal with that our male colleagues don’t. And so it’s nice to have a group that you can relate to on that level, and hopefully help change how medicine is practiced for female physicians.”
TMA’s House of Delegates approved the section at TexMed 2019 in Dallas last week. All TMA members are welcome to join, which is automatic for all female members.
The section will hold its first official meeting at the 2019 Fall Conference at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort & Spa, where officers will be elected and discussions will be held on operating procedures and section charges, Dr. Philip said.
Members who are interested in leadership positions are encouraged to submit their interest on the section’s website. For more information, contact Melanie Harrison, program manager of TMA’s Membership and Leadership Development, by email or by calling 512-370-1443.