An Interview with An Interview with Connie B. Newman and American Medical Women’s Association
Connie B. Newman, MD, FACP, FAHA, FAMWA.
2018 President of the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA)
1. What is your organization’s interest in the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance?
The American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) works at the local, national, and international level to advance women in medicine, advocate for equity and ensure excellence in health care. AMWA achieves its mission through professional and personal development of women doctors and students, education to enhance knowledge and clinical practice, and advocacy to achieve equity and improve health.
AMWA is concerned about the growing number of people in the United States with obesity or overweight (over two-thirds of the population). Obesity is a disease, and excess weight and adipose tissue lead to many other diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis in people with obesity is largely due to the excessive mechanical load on joints. Loss of 5 to 10% of body weight, which can be done by diet and physical activity, with or without pharmacotherapy or bariatric surgery, improves some of the metabolic abnormalities related to obesity, and may be beneficial to osteoarthritis. However, osteoarthritis can limit mobility and therefore make exercise and physical activity more difficult, thus negatively impacting an individual’s ability to lose weight. For patients who have lost weight, physical activity is critical to prevent weight regain.
2. What do you think is the most important issue today related to osteoarthritis?
One of the most important issues related to osteoarthritis is the burden that excess weight places on joints, and how this makes it difficult for people with osteoarthritis to exercise. Exercise, or increased physical activity is an important component of weight management plans, and is needed as an adjunct to nutritional lifestyle interventions for weight reduction and maintenance of lost weight.
Obesity is a complex disease, and difficult to treat successfully. Obesity has a neurobiological basis, and after weight loss, compensatory changes in hormones and pathways regulating appetite, satiety and energy expenditure lead to weight regain. The body essentially wants to defend the original weight. That explains why people who lose large amounts of weight, gain back most of it. In order to avoid weight re-gain, physical activity including both aerobic exercise and resistance training, is needed –in addition to diet, behavioral interventions, and, as indicated, pharmacotherapy.
However, patients with osteoarthritis may find it painful to exercise, and therefore avoid it. This affects their ability to lose weight.
3. How does your work connect to issues in osteoarthritis?
Part of the mission of AMWA is improvement of health care. AMWA tries to achieve this through education of healthcare practitioners, medical students and the public. One area of focus is obesity and its comorbidities, including osteoarthritis. Although obesity affects about 40% of the U.S. population, many practitioners do not know how to help people lose weight. AMWA is trying to enhance knowledge in this area by teaching practitioners how to interact with patients who have obesity in a non-biased way, and motivate them to lose weight. In addition AMWA provides education about weight management, including the role of exercise. As a member of the OAAA, AMWA is able to develop more educational tools, and disseminate them to a wider audience.
4. What is a headline you’d like to see about osteoarthritis in five years?
Dramatic Reduction in Osteoarthritis as Obesity Rate Falls!!
5. What is one interesting fact you’d like people to know about your organization?
AMWA was founded in 1915 as a national organization of women doctors in the United States. One hundred years ago, in October 1919, AMWA organized a dinner in New York City to honor women medical doctors from a variety of countries who had just returned from medical relief work in France. In attendance were 140 guests from 16 countries. At this dinner, the idea of forming an international association of women doctors was discussed, and within a few days the Medical Women’s International Association (MWIA) was formed. Dr. Esther P. Lovejoy, of AMWA, was the first President of MWIA. MWIA has grown into an organization of medical women from six continents.