Within the past 24 hours, a petition has been directed to the AUGS board regarding removing the J. Marion Sims name from one of our keynote addresses. Though my intent was to address this topic in my State of the Society address to all members, I now think it best to reassure you that the Board has not been ignoring this issue.
We have been discussing the controversies surrounding J. Marion Sims’s means to the “end” – the development of a standardized technique for successful closure of highly morbid, life-altering obstetrical fistula. We are sensitive to the perspective that the named lecture implies honor to a man whose treatment of vulnerable women has been determined to be strongly suspect. Our mission includes advocacy for the respectful and just care for all women with pelvic floor disorders irrespective of their race, social stature and means.
The Board has implemented several steps to bring resolution to the decision regarding disavowing from J. Marion Sims and renaming the lecture.
Our keynote speaker, Dr Lewis Wall, is a board-certified Obstetrician, Gynecologist and subspecialist in FPMRS. In addition to his clinical training, he is also a historian, with a doctoral degree in social anthropologist and masters in bioethics. He has been a life-long advocate for women who have sustained obstetric fistulas. He founded the Worldwide Fistula Fund over 20 years ago, which has built a fistula center in Niger and has consulted to the International Fistula Alliance which supports the work of the Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia and its 7 fistula hospitals and rehabilitation centers in Ethiopia. In 2014, as a Fulbright scholar, Dr Wall helped establish a fellowship in FPMRS in Ethiopia. Later this year, the Johns Hopkins University Press will publish his most recent book, Tears for My Sisters: The tragedy of Obstetric Fistula. I hope you will join me, with an open mind to listen and become informed. His selection as speaker by no means implies that the AUGS Board has come to conclusion about how we will deal with this issue, but rather serves as a means to start the process
Academic communities are known to be settings for open discourse. Our commitment to members is to follow the process of discovery and consideration before decision.
AUGS will open a new email account, board@AUGS.org, to provide all members an opportunity to share their perspective on this and any society issue moving forward.
The Board has devoted time to this topic on its agenda with the hope of finalizing the path forward as it relates to the membership’s interest in renaming the award.
Most importantly, as stewards of the society, the board and I feel strongly that this is a decision for our members to make, and not others in the public arena.
The annual meeting is the one time every year that old friends come together and new friendships are made. We need to keep this spirit alive during this year’s meeting even during these political times. Please support me in assuring the safe, and undisrupted conduct of this 38th Annual Scientific Meeting of AUGS.
Looking forward to seeing you soon,