Early History of the Western Society for Pediatric Research
By: Forrest H. Adams, MD & Robert A. Aldrich, MD (former presidents of the society)
Before the early history of the Western Society for Pediatric Research (WSPR) is recounted it seems appropriate to make a few comments about the American Pediatric Society (APS) and the Society for Pediatric Research (SPR). These two academic societies acted as a template for the WSPR and many of us were members and active participants in their programs.
The formation of the APS in 1888 and the SPR in 1931 are well documented elsewhere1.For those interested in the whys and wherefores of scientific organizations, such recounting makes for interesting reading.
The founders of the APS “were mainly young or youngish men and nearly all of the founders taught in medical schools or hospital centers; all were practitioners, but very few limited their practices to pediatrics.”1 The original forty-three members of the APS included such great physicians as: William Osler, L. Emmet Holt, A. Jacobi, T.M. Rotch, W.D. Booker, H. Koplik, S.S. Adams, S. Baruch, V.C. Vaughn, etc.
The purpose of the APS was “to bring together men and women for the advancement of the study of children and their diseases, for the prevention of illness and promotion of health in childhood, for the promotion of pediatric education and research, and to honor those who, by their contribution to pediatrics, have aided in its advancement.” 1 The APS had annual meetings usually in the spring, and nearly always on the east coast. Both is membership and the attendance at its meeting remained small for the first 30-40 years, but after World War II both increased dramatically.
In the early years, “the APS membership was purposely limited, it seldom welcomed papers by non-members, and its meetings were not open to the public.”1 Invited guests were an exceptional event. Thus, as the pediatric academic community began to grow, particularly in the field of clinical investigation, the younger pediatric researchers pushed for and organization of their own; and they have been called “The Pediatric Young Turks.” The first meeting of this new group (of Turks) called the Eastern Society for Pediatric Research was held in March of 1929, Boston and twenty-five attended. At subsequent meetings; the name was changed to Society for Pediatric Research (SPR); the requirements for membership were that the person must be dependably launched on a career in pediatric research, membership was to include Canada and Mexico, and the applicant had to be younger than 45 years. The SPR also held most of its meetings on the East Coast, generally in conjunction with the APS. The SPR meetings were open to visitors and the visitors were allowed to comment on presentations. There policies of the SPR were eventually adopted by the APS.
Now for the early history of the Western Society for Pediatric Research (WSPR). A number of chairmen of pediatric departments in the western United States saw early in the 1950’s a need to promoted pediatric research as an important aspect of their respective pediatric programs. Since the APS and SPR meetings generally took place on the East Coast and travel to them was both expensive and time consuming, only a limited numbers of persons could afford to attend their meetings. A forum to present and discuss pediatric research performed in the west was needed. It was believed that such a meeting: would promote research in the western departments, would promote collaboration in research in the west; would allow each of the departments to put on a “open house” to show-off its facilities and programs and would strengthen the “drawing power” to attract talented people to the west and thus build up our departments. These above ideas were generated in 1953 in San Francisco hotel room by the following individuals:
John Anderson, MD- Stanford
Edward Shaw, MD- UCSF
John Adams, MD- UCLA
Robert Aldrich, MD- Oregon
Alan Hill, MD- Oregon
Forrest Adams, MD- UCLA
Carolyn Piel, MD- UCSF
The society was named the Western Society for Pediatric Research (WSPR). Its membership was to include all of those western United States and Canada who were engaged in clinical or basic research. There were to be no age restrictions on membership and the scientific meetings were to be open to those interested in its proceedings. The purpose of the WSPR was to that similar to the adopted by the APS as already mentioned.
An important element in the early meetings of the WSPR beginning in 1953 was the rotation of the meeting site from city to city to allow each of the departments to “show off” its facilities and programs. The year, location and host of the first 14 meetings is shown in table I. This rotation proved to be very successful and its objective were met. Table II shows the officers for the same period table III shows the members of the council.
Interest in the programs of the WSPR grew rapidly. By 1963, there were over 175 active members from most of the medical schools in the west. Beginning in 1957, Ross Laboratories offered to fund two awards: one in pediatric research; and one in pediatric education. The receipts of these early awards are shown in table IV. Specialty sessions in cardiology, hematology, genetics, metabolism, endocrinology, infectious diseases, neurology, and development were begun in 1959. The proved to be very successful, and resulted in a increase in interest in WSPR meetings.
1. Faber HK, McIntosh R. (1966) History of the American Pediatric Society. McGraw Hill Books.