Founded on October 23, 1974, the Korean American Medical Association(KAMA)
was established by representatives of three U.S. regions – New York City, Washington
D.C. And Chicago – with most number of Korean physicians first as the Korean Medical
Association of America (KMAA), of which name later became KAMA in 1993.
Thanks to the support and dedication of countless members and family who
have shared their aspiration to help build the organization, KAMA has evolved to become
what it is today over the past quarter century. Officially recognized as a
scientifically and politically active organization in the U.S. as part of the American
Medical Association (AMA)-Specialty, Service and Society (SSS), KAMA is also able to
vote on candidates for elected offices of AMA and introduce resolutions which can become
policies as a privileged member of the AMA House of Delegates.
KAMA’s legacy is the reflection of many physicians of Korean heritage who
have achieved success and prominence in the U.S. and overseas. Among them, Dr.
Chai-chang Choi was an extraordinary visionary and pioneer initially bringing Korean
physicians together in the U.S. He persuaded eight Korean medical schools’ alumni
associations and physicians in the New York tri-state region to join KMAA and led the
organization to host its first general assembly on Feb. 15, 1975 in Washington, D.C.
There, KMAA was declared as a non-profit organization of which bylaws were ratified by
its inaugural executive committee including President Chai-chang Choi; Vice Presidents
Kwang-soo Lee, Kyung-jin Ahn and Young-il Hahn; Secretary General Hyo-keun Lee; and
Scientific Committee Chairman Bong-hak Hyun.
Later that year on Oct. 10-12, the first KAMA annual conference was held
jointly with Korean Medical Association (KMA) in Seoul, Korea attended by about 160
Korean physicians and family from the US. A joint medical conference was held annually
in Seoul steadily growing in size to host over 480 members and family from the U.S. in
1979 and featured one of the early endorsers of KMAA the former president of the AMA
Richard Palmer who gave the keynote speech in 1978. Then in 1980, the 5th annual
conference was moved to the U.S. and was held in New York City where Dr. Robert Good of
the Sloan Kettering Institute gave the keynote speech titled “New Initiative in Cancer
Research” to over 430 physicians and family, including 150 from Korea.
From the mid to late 1980s, the KMAA annual conferences were held without
the participation of KMA. At the 1984 conference in Puerto Rico, scientific programs
were added for the first time to provide a more academic atmosphere. With increasing
demands for business and financial affairs to be managed, the KMAA established its first
central offic in 1987 with Mrs. Tae-ja Kim Lee who served as the executive administrator
from 1987-1997. In 1998, the office was moved once again to New York City with its new
identity as KAMA and Mr. Kwang-ho Lee on board as the executive director.
As an emerging U.S. medical non-profit organization, KAMA published the first issue of
the Journal of KAMA in 1995.
Also in 1995, KAMA established the Dr. Chang Yul Oh’s Memorial Lectures. Dr. Oh was
KAMA’s fourth President. In 1996, its first lecture was given by Arthur Aufes, MD, Chief
of Surgery from Mount Sinai Medical School on Crohn’s Disease. Since that time the CYO
Memorial Fund has been sponsoring the Keynote lectures at the annual meetings.
Additionally, KAMA Newsletter and membership directory were published in 1998. Today,
KAMA’s numerous endeavors are continuing to better service its members, chapters,
partners and the public at large.