Mennonite Medical Association

The history behind MMA and MHF

Mennonite Medical Association

Mennonite Medical Association (MMA) was one of two predecessor organizations that joined to form Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship in June 2011.

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Mennonite Medical Association

Mennonite Medical Association (MMA) had its beginnings among members of the (Old) Mennonite Church in the 1940’s. During this period of time, an increasing number of Mennonite young adults were pursuing higher education including medicine. Church leaders were concerned that many of these young professionals were not remaining within the Mennonite Church. At the same time, there was a growing interest in medical missions among Mennonites. The experience of conscientious objectors in the Civilian Public Service camps during World War II was also leading a new generation of Mennonite young people to envision new ways of serving Christ in the world.

Several physicians invited pre-medical students and fellow professionals to meet in two areas of the country in 1943 and 1944. Out of one of those meetings in Southeast Pennsylvania, there emerged a vision of forming an association. The name “Mennonite Medical Association” was chosen and a constitution was prepared. It was accepted by 10 charter members in August 1944. By the end of that year it was agreed to invite all Brethren in Christ and Mennonite Church doctors and medical students to become members. Dentists were accepted beginning in 1952. By 1958, membership was opened to all groups affiliated with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Osteopathic physicians were accepted into membership starting in 1961. In 1985, physicians from the Church of the Brethren were accepted as members.

An interesting sidelight is that already in the summer of 1945 a joint fellowship of Mennonite Medical Association and the Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter of Mennonite Nurses Association was held, and the following year the two groups made a joint presentation at the annual meeting of Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities (MBMC, one of the predecessors of Mennonite Mission Network). This was the beginning of a cooperative relationship that eventually led to the formation of Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship.

The first national meeting of MMA was held in August 1947. In the early years, national meetings were held in conjunction with MBMC. As the Association consolidated and grew, further actions were taken to reach out to premedical students and assist with mission projects. In 1959, MMA established a revolving loan fund to assist medical students. A preceptor program was also established for medical students to gain clinical experience with a practicing Mennonite physician. In the 1960’s, an Executive Committee began to meet quarterly and developed a closer relationship with MCC. In 1962, MMA had a booth at the 7th Mennonite World Conference in Kitchener, Ontario. By this time, a part-time Executive Secretary had also been hired to handle administrative work for the association.

By the end of 1946, plans were already underway to publish the Mennonite Medical Messenger. During the ’60’s, the executive secretary of Mennonite Medical Association was also editor of the Mennonite Medical Messenger. In 1970, this publication joined with a similar one from Mennonite Nurses Association. Around 1998, the name of the publication was changed to Mennonite Health Journal. Mennonite Chaplains Association and an international Mennonite health association based in Canada became additional partners in the Journal.

A new thrust in mission began in 1971 with the start of the Mobilization for Mission program, a series of efforts to support students and practicing professionals in overseas mission work. At the same time, new cooperative efforts began with Mennonite Health Assembly culminating in a joint meeting in 1979. However, during the 1970’s the annual meetings of the association regularly started meeting every 2-3 years at the Laurelville Mennonite Church Center near Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania. On the off years, meetings were held in various other parts of the U.S. and occasionally in Canada. These meetings, in addition to offering stimulating professional and faith input were also family retreat events with plenty of opportunities for families with children to relax in scenic outdoor settings. Meetings were held together with Mennonite Nurses Association and there was good interaction between the two groups.

MMA members helped start and continue to fund two mission funds that were passed on to Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship. These funds were gradually merged, culminating in a consolidated Missional Budget Plan in 2016.

  • The Mobilization for Mission Fund (MFM) was used primarily to fund the Student Elective Term (SET) program which sent medical students and residents into overseas mission settings for a term of learning and service.
  • The Steven Roth Fund was established to honor the memory of Steven Roth who died while in medical school, studying to become a missionary physician. For a number of years the fund provided doctors who went overseas immediately following their residency the funds to pay interest on their student debt while in mission service. The legacy of Steven Roth and this fund is preserved in MHF’s Steven Roth Memorial Grant Program.

In 2011, Mennonite Medical Association and Mennonite Nurses Association joined to form Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship, opening its membership to all healthcare professionals.

Information from Faith and Fellowship: History of the Mennonite Medical Association 1944 – 1991 by Walter E. Schlabach M.D. and History of the Mennonite Medical Association: A Supplement 1991 – 1997.