WMed faculty launch new AMWA branch at the medical school


The medical school’s new branch of the American Medical Women’s Association – AMWA@WMed – has become official.

The new branch was accepted and officially recognized by AMWA’s national office in November following efforts by faculty, including Dr. Shama Tareen, to make the new branch a reality.

Dr. Tareen, who serves as president of AMWA@WMed, said the new branch comes at a time when women, for the first time ever, now make up the majority of medical students at U.S. schools. Given that development, AMWA and its branches across the country have taken on the work and advocacy to increase the number of women in senior leadership positions in the field of medicine.

“I felt that having a branch of AMWA at WMed would bring a different kind of gathering place, resource and platform for our female faculty, female residents, and female students,” Dr. Tareen said. “It is a place for them to congregate and ponder on the issues facing female physicians and how those issues impact them in their day-to-day lives.”

The AMWA@WMed branch held its inaugural meeting in June 2019 and its slate of officers include Dr. Tareen, as well as Drs. Lisa Miller, Diane Peirce, and Jan Werbinski, who serve as treasurer, chair of membership, and secretary, respectively.

Dr. Tareen said that while AMWA is a national organization focused on women’s issues in medicine, membership in the national organization and the AMWA@WMed branch is open to all genders. The national AMWA chapter currently includes more than 3,000 student, intern, and resident members, including many who have seats on AMWA’s Board of Directors.

Meetings of the AMWA@WMed branch occur the second Tuesday of every other month and the branch’s next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, February 11, 2020, at 5:30 p.m. in Classroom 111 at the W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus. A light dinner will be provided at the meeting.

In addition to the upcoming meeting, Dr. Tareen said the AMWA@WMed branch is planning an event for April that will focus on human trafficking, as well as an open house in the near future where students, residents, and faculty can gather to meet and network.

More recently, the new AMWA branch has worked closely with Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan as part of “First Aid Fanatics.” The program allows young girls the chance to take part in hands-on activities and earn their first aid badges during sessions in the medical school’s Simulation Center.

AMWA@WMed is the result of work that Dr. Tareen said began several years ago to bring an AMWA branch to the medical school. Now that the new branch is official, she said leaders and members plan to take on several initiatives, including a strong focus on the promotion of a sex and gender approach to health education and practice for students, residents, and faculty at WMed.

Dr. Werbinski, who has been a stalwart advocate for sex and gender based medicine, has been closely involved with AMWA at the national level for several years and currently serves as executive director of AMWA’s Sex and Gender Health Collaborative. More notably, in December, she was elected president-elect of AMWA for 2020 and will serve as president of AMWA in 2021.

At WMed, Dr. Werbinski serves as advisor to the student AMWA group and teaches courses on sex and gender based medicine for first-, second-, and third-year students. She said the new AMWA@WMed branch comes at what is a pivotal time in the field of medicine.

“More women are applying for medical school and more women are graduating from medical school so we need to be able to better accommodate women’s issues going forward,” she said.

Dr. Tareen said the AMWA@WMed branch is planning to host an event – possibly as soon as this fall – at the W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus that will focus on gender inequality in the medical profession. She said diversity in medical education will also be a topic the new branch and its membership will examine and advocate for.

“Medical education is still dominated by our male colleagues and there has to be a concentrated effort to look in to why and attempt to change that,” Dr. Tareen said. “We have to look at it on a granular level. It has a far-reaching impact on medical education and now, more than ever, it is important that when we are welcoming more female students and residents that we should have more female faculty and administration.”