“Can I really pursue a medical career and be an Orthodox Jewish woman?” This is the common thought that goes through the minds of many young frum (Orthodox Jewish) women who are hesitant about taking the necessary steps towards a medical career. It is difficult to consider how the long journey through pre-med, medical school, residency and fellowship training, and the eventual medical career can fit into the framework of the Orthodox Jewish community’s glorification of women exclusively in domesticated roles. How is it possible to navigate being shomer shabbat and entering residency training? How can I enter medical school and try to find or balance having a spouse at the same time? How can I balance all the religious responsibilities of an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle when I am constantly fighting to stay ahead of the academic curve? The easy assumption is that only women who have special circumstances-be it extra money, more moral support, superior intelligence, etc.-are able to commit to such an arduous journey. This can and does deter some of the most capable, brilliant and committed women in the Orthodox community from pursuing a career as a doctor.
Enter the Jewish Orthodox Women Medical Association (JOWMA): committed to building, supporting, guiding and encouraging the future and present generations of Orthodox Jewish women physicians. The physicians and physicians in training at JOWMA prove that, time and time again, women in the Orthodox Jewish community can in fact pursue a career as a doctor and be successful in doing so. JOWMA aims to organize events that will allow all physicians, physicians in training and hopeful-physicians-to-be to support one another in person on an ongoing basis. Additionally, the interactive online interface of JOWMA will give members access to unique mentoring programs, forums and other information that is all geared towards building a community of Orthodox Jewish female doctors.
The JOWMA inaugural event, “Navigating the medical career as an Orthodox Jewish Woman,” was only a glimmer of what JOWMA hopes to accomplish for Orthodox Jewish women physicians. There have been organizations that are dedicated to helping those in the medical field generally, in nursing or physician’s assistant positions; however, JOWMA is unique in its intention to exclusively serve frum female physicians (FFP) and physicians to be. We recognize the unique challenges that FFP’s encounter, and that we can all benefit from support and encouragement from one another. JOWMA hopes that through open-discourse, events and organized mentorship, the FFP’s of today can build each other up, as well as build and reassure the Orthodox Jewish female physicians of the future.