The Founding of the Academy. Bulletin of the American Academy of Dermatology. Special Historical Issue, Fall, 1978. 40th Anniversary Issue.
Lawrence Charles Parish, MD Philadelphia, PA
Forty years ago a small group of dermatologists gathered at the Statler Hotel in Detroit for the organizational meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology. For several years, there had been a movement to organize such a national group. Already, the Society for Investigative Dermatology had begun and its founding is detailed by Sulzberger on page 35.
There were two national groups but the American Dermatological Association was limited to 100 members and could not possibly encompass the 500 or more practicing dermatologists. The Section on Dermatology and Syphilology of the American Medical Association held annual meetings but this group was not responsive to the needs of dermatology in general.
In 1932 the American Board of Dermatology was formed and there were many certified dermatologists. These physlcians had no organization of their own. Howard Fox of New York had toyed with the idea of a national association during this time. Several members of the American Board of Dermatology were also interested in patterning an organization after the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Academy of Radiology.
During the first meeting of the SID, on June 10, 1937, Earl Osborne of Buffalo and Harold Cole of Cleveland discussed the concept of such an Academy at lunch at the Traymore Hotel in Atlantic City. Cole suggested that Osborne introduce the idea of a national organization at the AMA section then in session. The next day the chairman of the section, Paul O’Leary, Rochester, Minnesota, appointed a committee of seven to study the advisibility of forming an American Academy of Dermatology and Syphilology. Three months later on September 10, 1937, the committee, now enlarged to 14, met at the University Club in Chicago as guests of Oliver Ormsby. Those present included the following: Harold N. Cole, MD – Harry R. Foerster, MD – Howard Fox, MD – C. Guy Lane, MD – George M. MacKee, MD – Howard Morrow, MD – Paul O’Leary, MD – Oliver S. Ormsby, MD – Earl D. Osborne, MD – William Alien Pusey, MD – Elmore B. Tauber, MD – H. J. Templeton, MD – Martin T. Van Studdiford, MD – Fred D. Weidman, MD – Richard S. Weiss, MD – Udo J. Wile, MD – Fred Wise, MD
Samuel J. Zakon, MD (left), first Historian of the American Academy of Dermatology and his mentor, Arthur Stillians, MD (right), late chairman of the Department of Dermatology at Northwestern University School of Medicine are well remembered by many members of the Academy. (*Deceased, May 17,1978)
The meeting had been called to discuss the ill-fated International Congress of Dermatology planned for New York in 1940. By late fall plans had been made to hold the organizational meeting of the AAD&S at the Statler Hotel in Detroit on January 14 and 15. During the first part of December letters of invitation went out to speakers. Howard Fox had been named the acting chairman. The show was on.
Despite the cold and snow of January on Lake Erie, more than 300 dermatologists attended this meeting, which was the combined sessions of the Central States, the Mississippi Valley, the Chicago Dermatological and the Detroit Dermatological societies. The program consisted of sections on syphilis, immunology, histopathology and mycology. The American Academy of Dermatology and Syphilology was off and rolling. A constitution was adopted and Howard Fox was elected president. The first annual meeting planned for November in St. Louis would be an even bigger success.
What were the early meetings of the AAD like? I wrote to the Life Members of the Academy for their recollections. Many replied and their names are given in the listing below or with their article and deep appreciation for their contributions is so acknowledged.
John V. Ambler, MD, Denver, CO – Joseph C. Amersbach, MD, Fairview Park, OH – Charles D. Bell, MD, Roca, NE – Wolfgang A. Casper, MD, Staten Island, NY – Frank C. Combes, MD, East Ridge, TN – William Curth, MD, New York, NY – Louis Dantzig, MD, Utica, NY – John Van De Erve, MD, Charieston, SC – Hubert J. Farrell, MD, Milwaukee, WI – Isaac Myron Feisher, MD, Hallandale, FL – Hervey A. Foerster, MD, Oklahoma City, OK – Paul D. Foster, MD, Los Angeles, CA – Julius E. Ginsberg, MD, Laguna Hills, CA – Paul Gross, MD, New York, NY – Eugene A. Hand, MD, Pigeon, MI – Sture A.M. Johnson, MD, Madison, WI – Roy L. Kile, MD, Lantana, FL – W. Leslie Kirby, MD, Deiray Beach, FL – Charles Lerner, MD, Akron, OH – Lydia C. Marshak, MD, Aurora, IL – Minnie Oboler Peristein, MD, Campbeli, CA – Arthur J. Philip, MD, Rockville Centre, NY – E. M. Satulsky, MD, Elizabeth, NJ – Albert Shumate, MD, San Francisco, CA – Henry Silver, MD, New York, NY – Maurice A. Strickland, MD, Bellaire, TX – Conrad Stritzier, MD, Jamaica, NY
Joseph C. Hathaway, Honolulu, Hawaii wrote: “The chief thing I remember during the first few years was the tremendous time and energy that was given by Eari Osborne and I do not think anyone contributed more to the success of this organization. I wish to applaud the enormous amount of time and energy that was contributed also by many others.” Helen Ollendorff Curth, New York City, recalled: “Every year the Session of the American Academy of Dermatology makes a deep impression on me. The Academy was conceived by Osborne in a grand manner and has kept its excellence in every way. It is always adding instruction in neighboring fields such as genetics, allergy, cosmetics, surgery and others by various methods (exhibits, seminars, courses, discussion groups and others). It is not surprising that it has attracted each year outstanding foreign dermatologists and an ever increasing number of American colleagues. It has always kept abreast of the newest developments in our field.
With its moving away from a constant location in Chicago to various places in the West, East and South of the country it has added new faces and new outlooks to the program.
No other medical specialty is as proud of its American Academy as we dermatologists can be of ours.”
The Philadelphia story
Of particular interest was the comment by Thomas Butterworth, Reading, Pennsylvania, who recalled the 1939 meeting in Philadelphia.
“it was in early 1939 a few months after the St. Louis meeting of the new American Academy of Dermatology and Syphilology.
“Official word came via the Philadelphia Dermatological Society that the 1939 meeting would be held in Philadelphia. I was Chairman of the Philadelphia group and Herman Beerman was Secretary. I asked the officers, directors and chairmen of the committees to stay after our next monthly meeting to initiate plans for the convention.
“The first question asked was “what is our budget?” The answer, “none” gave us the first belly laugh of the evening. We were to be “hosts” in the strict sense of the word. We were proud Philadelphians and we were determined to conduct a memorable convention at any cost. We decided to divide the chores in many ways as equitably as possible and let each man be responsible for his own expenses. The Philadelphia Society would contribute to the general overhead.
“Many of the various assignments are now dim in my memory. I do recall that Abe Strauss, always knowledgeable about innkeepers and excellent food, was given the task of selecting the convention hotel and planning the menus. He wisely chose the Bellevue Stratford and arranged fine food for our daily luncheons and dinners.
“Frank Knowles was responsible for the clinical session. Jefferson Medical College gave us four large rooms in which to show our patients. One physician was responsible for providing patients and discussing the cases in each room. The out-of-town dermatologists were divided into four groups which were assigned to see the patients at hourly intervals from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The whole demonstration proceeded very smoothly.
“Before detailing my role in the second meeting of the Academy I apologize for not remembering the names and assignments of so many others who contributed to its success.
“My job was registration. I purchased some large white round pin badges on which each member wrote his name with a soft pencil. Two dozen such pencils and several legal pads constituted our supplies. What about clerical help on our non-existent budget? We decided to draft wives of members for the job. The first person off the elevator was Mildred, Mrs. Roy L. Kile, Cincinnati. She began the task with great energy and enthusiasm. Soon we had several more volunteers. They worked together as a great team and I do not recall that lines, for registration were ever very long.
“As I was in charge of registration I was also responsible for selling tickets for luncheons and dinners. These were great bargains: $2.00 for lunch and $5.00 for dinner. After each meal I would go to the dining room office and buy back the tickets they had actually collected at the tables. Many physicians who bought tickets failed to come to the meal so we netted about $40.00 for each luncheon and almost as much for each dinner. Over several days of the meeting we collected a modest amount of money toward our expenses.
“My other job was to f iii a room for a clinical session at Jefferson. I brought a bus load of patients in from Pennhurst State School for the Retarded. Their unusual manifestations intrigued the viewers. The retarded children behaved very well until they became hungry late in the morning, a situation readily corrected. As I recall, there was no formal discussion of the cases presented. The physician in charge of the room had to answer all the questions-terrific experience for a young practitioner.
“The details of the scientific portions of the meeting have left me but we did receive many compliments for our endeavors. A successful meeting was a great tonic for the Academy whose growth and progress were soon to be stalled by World War II.”
Roy Kile, then of Cincinnati, confirmed the happenings and the elevator escapade.
Louis Brunsting, formerly of Rochester, Minnesota, recalled the Chicago Dermatological Society. Emphasis was mostly on the clinical aspects of diseases of the skin. Young physicians were urged to present exhibits or charts of their own work or to join with some 250 others in viewing patients at the Cook County Hospital. Who knows? Perhaps they might pick up a pearl or two to help them pass the Boards.
From time to time the question was brought up in regard to whether or not the Academy should sponsor a journal of its own. So far as I recall, the idea has been soundly vetoed.”
Lawrence C. Goldberg, Cincinnati, Ohio, also reminisced: “For me the AAD is the hub upon which many of the spokes of dermatology are fastened. It is the meeting place where many of my friends and a few of my teachers (those who are still living) are met and it rekindles the sparks which are growing dimmer as I grow older. I love the AAD and hope to attend as long as I can particularly since nostalgia is returning with the History of Dermatology dinner meetings. The organization meeting was made up of members of the Central State and Mississippi Dermatological Societies and Udo Wile, Guy Lane, Harold Cole, Fred Weidman and Howard Fox and a few others. ”
The Chicago viewpoint
The 1940 meeting was held in Chicago at the Palmer House, later home of so many annual meetings. Louis Winer, then practicing in Minneapolis, and now in Los Angeles, made the following observations:
“As I remember, I first encountered the idea of founding an American Academy of Dermatology about 40 years ago. I was attending a meeting of the Chicago Dermatological Society, my first as a member. (I had attended previous meetings, as a guest, through the courtesy of the late Henry Michaelson, but not as a regular member.)
Several of us out-of-towners were in the habit of gathering after the monthly meeting at Chicago’s Palmer House. The leaders of this group were Paul O’Leary, Henry Michaelson, and Clark Finnerud. We often had song festivals at which most of us sang, and one or two played the piano. A rollicking good time and good fellowship were had by all.
I recall one such gathering when Paul O’Leary, in serious conversation, brought up the fact that the first academy of a medical specialty was the American Academy of Dr. O’Leary Ophthalmologists. He suggested the idea that dermatologists could be second in line and form an American Academy of Dermatology to bring out the best teachers in dermatology and the choice location for such would be a central U.S. city like Chicago at the Palmer House, where we were then congregated. It would be the ideal meeting place in Chicago during the winter; we would have a captive audience. That is, few would dare to go out in December looking for excitement, but would rather stay indoors in the hotel and enjoy listening to the presentations.
Furthermore, at that season, the dermatologic practices in Illinois, Minneapolis, and Rochester’s Mayo Clinic were rather slow because of deep snow and extreme cold. Few patients desired to go out and expose their skin to further injury such as frostbite. Thus Chicago in winter seemed the best time and place for a meeting of dermatologists.”
At Louis Winer’s suggestion, I wrote to Dr. Carl Laymon, also of Minneapolis, and now of Los Angeles who stated:
“Francis lynch, John Madden, Louie Winer and I began attending meetings of the Chicago Dermatological Society in the early to mid 1930s. Our teacher and professor was the late Dr. Henry Michaelson. I recently received a certificate from the Chicago Society indicating 40 years of membership, hence I must have become a member in 1937. Before that, as Louie said, we attended as Dr. Michaelson’s guests. As Louie stated, it was our habit to get together following the meetings of the Chicago Society; they were held beginning at 1:00 p.m. and finished about 5:00 p.m. At first they were held at the Cook County Hospital and later at the University of Illinois. Discussions were held at the Illinois Union, and we would get back to downtown Chicago about 6:00 p.m. Some of us would join for dinner after the monthly meetings, usually Dr. Michaelson and the aforementioned men from the Twin Cities. It was later, as I recall that we were joined by the late Drs. Clark Finnerud and Michael Ebert, and sometimes Paul O’Leary, Louis Brunsting and Hamilton Montgomery. Dr. Ebert at that time was associated with Dr. Oliver Ormsby. Most of the time, as I recall, we went to the Sherman Hotel and got together in what was then the College Inn. Other times we would go to the University Club or some restaurant. I do not recall the gathering at the Palmer House which Louie mentioned when the late Paul O’Leary suggested the formation of an Academy of Dermatology. It is possible that I was not present at the time of that conversation or did not attend that particular meeting, although I hardly ever missed a monthly meeting over a period of many years, in fact until I moved here in 1971.
My first definite recollection of the Academy activities was the organizational meeting in Detroit in 1938. It is my impression, however, that the late Earl Osborne, Buffalo, was considered the “founding father” of the American Academy of Dermatology. I also attended the subsequent educational meetings, the first of which, as you know, was held in St. Louis, and later in Philadelphia and New York before World War II. I do not recall that climatic reasons had anything to do with the idea of having the Academy meet in Chicago, although I may have missed this part of the conversation. I never noticed personally that our dermatology practices changed very much as a result of snow and cold in Minnesota. Moreover, Chicago weather in December may be extremely disagreeable. As I recall, it was the original intention to schedule meetings in different cities, but the Academy soon grew so large that there were very few places that could accommodate the large membership. That is why the Palmer House, because of its huge size and other excellent facilities, was chosen as the annual meeting site. As you know, it has been only in the last few years that meetings were held in cities other than Chicago, such as Miami Beach, San Francisco, and Dallas.”
Francis Lynch, then of St. Paul and now of Tucson, added:
“Mid-America probably deserves credit for the exhibit planning and the actual establishment of the Academy. There were specific actions by the Central States Dermatological Society (which I believe met annually) and by the Mississippi Valley Derm Conference. The role of the Chicago group was probably more by the individuals than by the Society it self. Its annual meetings brought together dermatologists from “everywhere” within 12 hours train travel. There was a “beautiful” clinical session, followed by dinner at the Palmer House. (Like Winer, I remember clearly the pleasure of first being a guest of Henry Michaelson on such an occasion.)”
Hamilton Montgomery, Rochester, Minnesota recalled:
“I believe I was taken in as a regular member of the Chicago Dermatological Society before Paul O’Leary and Henry Michaelson were Associate members.
I believe it was Marion Sulzberger who asked me to be one of the founders of the Society for Investigative Dermatology. Some of the old guard, both in Chicago and in New York, and elsewhere, felt that another society was too much. Paul O’Leary said there was room for two societies; they have different perspectives. Thus we founded the Society for Investigative Dermatology, dating back almost to the time that the American Academy of Dermatology was founded. Paul O’Leary and Earl Osborne were the active instigators, among others, for the AAD, whereas Marion B. Sulzberger, John Stokes, and Herman Beerman were active in forming the Society for Investigative Dermatology.
Paul O’Leary got Oscar Gans to spend two hours a day for six months teaching us dermatohistopathology at the Clinic. Henry Michaelson attended practically every one of the meetings commuting from Minneapolis. This resulted in the firm feeling of good will between the Clinic and the Minnesota Dermatology Society.
In the old days the Chicago Dermatological Society met on alternate months in Pusey’s or Ormsby’s office, and one was allowed to bring one resident for one meeting a year. I was so honored in 1923. There was a great deal of rivalry between Ormsby, Otto Foerster, and Udo Wile concerning how many of their students made the ADA, etc. In talking about the three societies, one must keep in mind that for many years we had an annual meeting, and a taik by someone from the Chicago Dermatological Society. This began with a rather elaborate dinner. Dr. William Allen Pusey paid all the expenses until the meeting became too large. I think his name should be mentioned if you are going to include others, even though Pusey didn’t attend the bull sessions to which Louie Winer refers.”
Officers for 1966 and 1967 were (l. to r.) Stanley Huff, Secretary-Treasurer (1967), Samuel Zakon, Historian (1966-67), Anthony N. Domonkos, Vice-President (1967), Clarence Livingood, President (1967), Rees B. Rees, Vice-President (1966), Herman Beerman, President (1966), and Robert A. Pommerening, Asst. Secretary-Treasurer (1967)
Immediately after the War, the December 1946 meeting was held in Cleveland, having been postponed four years. Alf red Hollander of Springfield, Massachusetts recalls:
“A cloud hung over this meeting because of John Lewis’ threatened coal strike and resulting suspension of train service. Fortunately, the strike did not substantiate. In Cleveland, Frederic Mohs gave a talk on his chemosurgery of skin cancer and I am sure the importance of his treatment approach was then not appreciated. What a difference between the small attendance in 1946 and that of 1977 when he gave the Lila Gruber Memorial Cancer Research Lecture on Chemosurgery – Past, Present, and Future – and received the Lila Gruber Research Award for his work.
In the early years of the Academy the histopathologic conference was attended by relatively few but the atmosphere was intimate and the exchange of opinions most stimulating. Zola Cooper and Herbert Lund as general pathologists were most welcome with their outstanding contributions.
Louis Winer and Walter Nickel started in 1960 a Sunday afternoon presentation “applied histopathology.” I was one of 11 participants. From a small audience the session became in a few years one of the most popular programs and extends now over two days.”
By the 1950s the Academy had become a real tradition. Paul Telner, who practiced in Montreal for many years noted:
“The attendance of the many American Academy meetings, which are all happy memories, brings to mind many an instance I would like to share with you. But one stands out among all the others:
In the early fifties, Dr. Hamilton Montgomery and others showed an exhibit and some papers were given on a subject which was a real breakthrough. It was the data which revealed that melanocytes originated in the neural crest. I congratulated Dr. Montgomery on his exhibit, he took my hand and in a kindly fatherly way said: “Son, this will lead to great discoveries and will open many vistas. I being somewhat younger and more mischievous, replied: “Dr. Montgomery, when I was a medical student at the University of Montreal, in the early thirties, I had the rare good fortune of having Dr. Pierre Masson as my professor of pathology. I remember how these facts were repeatedly drummed into our heads and I can still see his forefinger wagging and he said, “un jour tout le monde va I’accepter.”
Not everybody liked the Palmer House in the wintertime. Beatrice Kesten, then of New York, noted:
“As soon as the meeting was over I hurried to O’Hare Airport. On arrival it was dark, snowing and blowing. Planes were flying at intervals. Dr. Karelitz, who had escaped from Russia knew how to cope with winter. To protect us from the intense cold on the walk to the plane she had made jackets, hoods and leggings from newspaper. About 3 a.m. it was announced that a plane would leave very shortly. When boarding was announced about an hour later we put on our paper protectives and hurried out the revolving door to the plane. The wind was howling and as I went through the revolving door my ticket flew out into the snow bank. I groped my way up the steps and explained to the hostess that I had lost my ticket. She said, “Oh come on in, make yourself comfortable, and later you can come back and we will talk about it.” Just before “take off” I went back. She said to me “Madam, were you just going to Los Angeles or on through?” I told her I planned on going to New York. While the engines purred and the steps were brought back in place we scampered off the plane. A later plane took us to New York City and we arrived in time for the rounds at nine.”
As organized as Academy meetings were there were always some problems. Irvin Blank, Boston, noted:
“In 1951, I moderated a panel discussion on “The Relief of the Symptom of Dryness.” This was the first presentation of my theory that water makes keratinized tissues flexible but oils do not. I had had a piece of dry callus in petrolatum for a year and it was still so brittle that you could hear it “crack” when broken. With some trepidation, I decided to take that callus to Chicago and hoped that the audience would be able to hear it “crack” over the microphone. Subconsciously, I must not have wanted to do this. First, I forgot the callus in the jar of petrolatum when I left Boston; I had it forwarded by special delivery. Secondly, I left the jar in my hotel room when I went to the Palmer House ballroom for the discussion, and had to rush back for it. Next, when I reached that part of my talk when I had planned to “crack” the callus, I forgot to do it. Having already gone to so much trouble, I decided to definitely try it at a later period.
But when I finally opened the jar, ready to impress the audience, the callus wasn’t there! I eventually located it stuck to the jar cap. It did go “snap, crackle, pop” and was a good demonstration in spite of my uncertainties.”
Dr. Troy Handy, now of Cuernavaca, Mexico, formerly of Houston, stated:
“The late Dr. Arthur G. Schoch, of Schoch Letter fame and President of the Academy in 1957, a man of great charm and brilliance, was gifted with the ability to perceive and express the incongruous and comical. At times I nearly fell out of my char laughing at his dry wit. On one occasion about 20 years ago, at an Informal Discussion Group meeting, he gave this gem. ‘Everybody knows what a double blind study is, and I’ve just figured out what a TRIPLE blind study is, to wit: the nurse doesn’t know what she’s giving, the patient doesn’t know what he’s getting and the doctor doesn’t know what he’s doing!’ ”
Forty years later
The American Academy of Dermatology is now celebrating its 40th anniversary. In a letter to Earl Osborne, our first secretary, posted at New York on May 18, 1938, Howard Fox wrote, ”I was just about to write to you when your letter arrived. I am glad the checks are coming in, though I had hoped at this time we would have had 300 paid up members. The only kick I have heard is that some physicians think there should have been no initial fee for those who went to Detroit and became charter members. Otherwise everyone seems in favor of the Academy. To tell the truth they can’t do anything else. It is a growing concern, and nothing can stop its becoming a large and influential body in the near future.”