Dr. Lila Wallis, Clinical Professor at Weill Cornell, Receives "Distinguished Women in Medicine" Award from Columbia P&S

Created "Teaching Associates" Program by Which Medical Students Learn Painless and Sensitive Techniques of Pelvic and Breast Exam

May 17, 2002


Dr. Lila A. Wallis, Clinical Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College—and a pioneering woman physician and advocate for women's health and women's medical education—was honored with the Virginia Kneeland Frantz Distinguished Women in Medicine Award today at the Dean's Day ceremonies of Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons.

In being nominated for the award, Dr. Wallis, who graduated from Columbia P&S in 1951, was cited for her "devoted care of her patients, exhibiting diagnostic brilliance and unswerving commitment to those whose health is entrusted to her"; her "clinical teaching of the skills needed for the sensitive care of women patients"; and her development of the innovative Teaching Associates program, "a method of teaching a competent, painless, sensitive, and communicative breast and pelvic examination."

Dr. Wallis, who is also an Attending Physician at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, commented, "A wonderful teacher, Dr. Virginia Kneeland Frantz was one of the very few women faculty at Columbia and my role model. I hope that my students will think of me with the kind of affection and gratitude that I feel toward her."

Dr. Wallis is the only physician in the United States, male or female, to be board-certified in the three fields of internal medicine, hematology, and endocrinology/metabolism. Like Virginia Kneeland Frantz herself, she led the way and encouraged many women to enter the medical profession.

In 1951, when Dr. Wallis graduated from medical school, medicine was a rare option for women. However, through her efforts and other women leaders' efforts, much has changed. In 2001, almost 50% of the entering class at Weill Cornell Medical College were women—49 of the 101 students.

A past President of the American Medical Women's Association and founder of the National Council on Women's Health, Dr. Wallis is Editor-in-Chief of Textbook of Women's Health (1997), a 1,000-page volume that serves as a resource for all physicians who care for women patients.

Dr. Wallis developed the Teaching Associates program in 1979. It involves training non-MD graduate students from such fields as sociology, psychology, and nursing to become patient substitutes and advisors to medical students—demonstrating, guiding, and providing feedback for these students who learn how to perform pelvic and breast exams. This teaching method was later extended to male genital-rectal examination. Teaching Associate programs have become standard at most American and Canadian medical schools.

Dr. Wallis has received international recognition for her work on osteoporosis, estrogen replacement therapy, and menopause. In her practice, she was one of the first doctors to explore the previously hidden and taboo problem of domestic violence.

Dr. Wallis, who has been at Weill Cornell since her postgraduate training half a century ago, was honored by this Medical College in 1986 with the establishment of the Dr. Lila Wallis Distinguished Visiting Professorship in Women's Health. In 1996, she became a Master of the American College of Physicians (MACP), and, a year later, received the ACP's prestigious Laureate Award.