Who Sits Around the Table Matters

Nov 27, 2018

Members of our sisterhood gathered to celebrate the legacy of women in medicine

“How'd you know you'd go into medicine?” 

Attendees at this year’s Alma Dea Morani Award presentation asked each other this question as they waited for the formal remarks to start. It was clear they were genuinely interested in understanding each other's passion, and went on to share with each other their specialities, their stories and their care for humanity. 

When several women in medicine were asked what has changed for women in medicine over the last 20 years, the response was unanimous: “There are so many women now!”

While the number of women enrolled in medical school has skyrocketed, work still needs to be done at the top - and that’s part of what the Alma Dea Morani Award presentation is all about.

The award is given to a woman in medicine who has left a significant mark on history and pivotally advanced the future. This year, it was presented to Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, an internationally recognized leader in public health and medicine.

Dr. Carol Nadelson, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and chair of the Alma Dea Morani Award selection committee, shared that it has been an honor working with a list of brilliant women and the contributions they have made to medicine. 

She was thrilled with this year’s selection and welcomed Dr. Hamburg to share her story.

As part of her remarks, Dr. Hamburg shared that so much of her career was about saying, “I'd be crazy to do that job!” and then ending up in the role anyway. 

She dedicated the award to her mother, Beatrix Hamburg, a pioneer in medicine in her own right. “She had a way of anticipating where we were going,” Dr. Hamburg shared. 

Taking us on a walk through the highlights of her career, she shared that it was the HIV epidemic that informed the direction of her career trajectory. It was then that she saw the intersection of medical issues with other issues, including public policy. The ability to make impact across a broader spectrum was what attracted her to public health.

While the award recognizes a leader, it is about more than that individual. “[Lifting] up this type of life for the women coming along today is an incredible thing,” said Dr. Carolyn Britton, Associate Professor of Clinical Neurology, Columbia Presbyterian Neurological Institute.

“Understanding the history and what went before them is an important part of the shield that helps them to go forward, knowing that they have partners and that they are protected,” she continued.

That is exactly what makes the Foundation impactful and a key hub for women in medicine, especially those who want to make sure their stories empower others. 

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation. 

President Dr. Julia Haller, Ophthalmologist-in-Chief, Wills Eye Hospital, shared with the room that we can not continue to expand our mission without support. 

She invited them to join her as a member of the 1849 Society. Named for Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to obtain a medical degree in the United States and the first woman listed on the UK Medical Register, members of the society donate $1,000 or more. They are then invited to be a member of our close-knit community. 

Every year, the Alma Dea Morani Award presentation reminds us what makes the Foundation alive - the women who come to the table. 

Welcome Dr. Hamburg, and a big welcome to any supporters or women in medicine who found us because of her.


Listen to Dr. Hamburg’s remarks and view photos from the event. 

Thank you to our host, BNY Mellon, for their support and shared commitment to legacy.