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 KAMM 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 and established Dr. Chang-yul Oh memorial lectures in 1996 with its first lecture given by Dr. Arthur Aufes from Mount Sinai Medical School. 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.