The Academy of Medicine of Washington, District of Columbia, Incorporated was organized in 1935 “for the advancement of the science and art of medicine and to promote the mutual exchange of knowledge between medical and other scientific groups.” Membership was specified as Limited to those who “shall be interested in Medicine and the Para-medical sciences and shall have made contributions to advancement in these fields” (The Constitution, Articles H and III).
The idea of an Academy of Medicine for the Washington area was conceived by Earl Baldwin McKinley, Dean of the George Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. McKinley enlisted the interest of others, and by his energy and enthusiasm brought the idea to fruition; he is recognized as the founder of the Academy.
A certificate of incorporation of “The Washington Academy of Medicine, Incorporated,” was issued on February 15, 1935 by the Superintendent of Corporations of the District of Columbia. The certificate was signed by Roger M. Choisser, B.F. Dean, Jr. and W. Warren Sager. An amendment to this certificate was recorded on November 7, 1935, in which the name was changed to “The Academy of Medicine of Washington, District of Columbia, Incorporated.”
The first meeting of the Organization Committee was held in the Board Room of the Cosmos Club on January 14, 1936. The following participated in that meeting: Earl B. McKinley, William A. White, Errett C. Albritton, Walter A. Bloedorn, Daniel L. Borden, Paul E. Howe, Edgar E. Hume, William J. Mallory, Matthew W. Perry, Sterling Ruffin, Vincent du Vigneaud, Carl Voegtlin, and Charles S. White. Dr. William A. White was chosen to be Chairman of the Committee and Dr. Errett C. Albritton was elected Secretary. There were established two sub-committees: a Committee on Membership with William C. White as Chairman; and a Committee on Constitution, with Matthew W. Perry as Chairman.
The next meeting of the Organization Committee was held in the Board Room of the Cosmos Club on March 12, 1936. At this meeting, a constitution was presented for consideration, a list of fifty-six charter members was adopted and a Nominating Committee was appointed. On April 28, 1936, at a dinner meeting at the Cosmos Club, the Academy held its first formal business meeting. The Constitution was adopted, officers were elected and installed, and committees were appointed.
The first scientific session of the Academy of Medicine was held at dinner in the Cosmos Club on June 9, 1936. The subject discussed was “High Voltage Particles and Radiation.” The leader of the discussion was Dr. Merle A. Tuve. The second scientific meeting of the Academy was on December 8, 1936. The subject the discussion was “Reaction of the Individual to Factors in His Social Environment with Special Reference to the Diagnosis and Treatment of Illness.” Six speakers, under the guidance of a moderator, participated. The meeting adjourned at 11:30 p.m.. Subsequent meetings have been less heroic. Meetings were held for a number of years at the Cosmos Club, and then transferred to the Roger Smith Hotel. In the early 1950’s the Academy returned to the Cosmos Club for its meetings and has continued there to the present time.
During the years since the Academy was established, the objectives of the founders have been eminently achieved. Membership has included leaders in the fields of medicine and para-medical sciences in the area. Many noted individuals in the medical world addressed the Academy. The type of meeting adopted has brought to the membership much information and inspiration and has created outstanding opportunities for an exchange of ideas.
In 1980, upon recommendation of the Board of Directors, the Membership authorized the formation of a Committee on Medical Schools to develop projects which would involve the Academy in the academic life of the area medical schools. Eventually adapted was a plan promulgated by W. Montague Cobb, Professor Emeritus of Anatomy at Howard University School of Medicine. This provided for the Academy to sponsor annually an essay contest on the subject of Bioethics in each of the four local medical schools. The first contest was held during the academic year 1981-82. The winners presented abstracts of their essays at the 1982 Spring meeting. A handsome plaque bearing the seal of the Academy was presented to each.
The Academy of Medicine is unique in that its membership consists of individuals with widely diversified backgrounds. In 1946, Dr. Leland Parr made an analysis of the membership. Of the 60 charter members, 24 worked in the basic medical sciences and 36 were involved in the practice of medicine and surgery. In 1946, there were 56 active members. These were distributed as follows: 18 were concerned with basic medical science and 38 were primarily known as internists, surgeons or specialists. In 1966, there were 127 active members distributed as follows: 34 in fields of basic medical science; 64 in medicine, surgery or other specialties; 24 were in other related medical fields, with 3 in dentistry and 2 in veterinary medicine. In 1981, including Emeritus members, the Academy had 101 in medicine, surgery of other clinical specialties; 48 in basic sciences and 9 in administration. During the first forty-seven years of its existence, the Academy was an all-male organization. Although nothing in the Constitution prohibited the admission of women, none, by unwritten agreement, were ever proposed. At a business meeting in 1981, the matter was openly discussed, during which it was pointed out that the Washington area included many women physicians and scientists of outstanding qualifications. Following a secret mail ballot which showed that an overwhelming majority of the members favored their admission, a group of women members was welcomed into the Academy at the May 1982 meeting.
The Academy of Medicine received recognition as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization from the Internal Revenue Service in a letter dated December 9, 1997. In 2013, a Committee appointed by the President revised the Academy’s Constitution and Bylaws to reflect current practices and procedures which had been approved by the Board of Directors. This revision was adopted by the membership on September 7, 2013. In 2014, the Academy began a close examination of its function and purpose and a strategic planning committee was appointed. This committee proposed a Mission and Vision statement and on March 4, 2015, the Board of Directors approved the following:
The Mission of The Academy of Medicine, Washington, D.C.: “The Academy of Medicine of Washington, D.C. exists for the advancement of the science and practice of medicine and the promotion of biomedical scholarship, bioethics, and professional collegiality.”
The Vision for The Academy of Medicine, Washington, D.C.: “The Academy of Medicine of Washington, D.C. will promote human health by fostering an environment of biomedical education, research, service, and professionalism and will be an influential leader within local and National health communities.”
As noted in the article printed in Science, Vol 83, no. 2160, page 500 (1936), [The Academy] “is uniquely favorable for the development of a forum in which problems of general interest in medical science may be examined from all angles.” (Updated March 10, 2015)
The following is the text of the 1936 Science article about the founding of the Academy of Medicine of Washington D.C.:
SOCIETIES AND MEETINGS
FORMATION OF AN ACADEMY OF MEDICINE IN WASHINGTON, D. C.
On April 28, 1936, the Academy of Medicine of Washington, D. C., was organized and had its initial meeting. Officers elected were: President, Dr. William A. White; vice-president, Dr. Carl Voegtlin; treasurer, Dr. William C. White; secretary, Dr. Errett C. Albritton; directors, Drs. Ales Hrdlicka, Sterling Ruffin, Lyman J. Briggs, Earl B. McKinley and Matthew W. Perry. The academy membership is limited to 60 ordinary resident members and 30 associate and non-resident members. As stated in its constitution, the academy has been organized “for the advancement of the science of medicine and to promote the mutual exchange of knowledge between medical and other scientific groups.” In the formation of medical groups two opposite trends may be noticed, the main one toward a greater differentiation of function, the other toward a reunification of interests. The first is a reflection of the process of cleavage and development, still going on, by which an amazing number of sciences has been derived from the originally undifferentiated profession of the healing of the sick; the other represents an effort to overcome the disadvantage of divergence that accompanies differentiation. Two large groups in particular have been carried apart in this process, the clinicians and clinical investigators, and the laboratory investigators in medicine. Two others may be named that have little professional contact with these, workers in public health and men in the sciences allied to medicine. In each of these groups professional societies or sections of societies have grown up with ever more precisely limited objectives. Work is so active at every frontier that only an occasional guest speaker from one field can bring word to those in another that permits direct interchange of ideas between them. The organization of the Academy of Medicine of Washington is one of the infrequent instances of a movement counter to this general trend. It draws its membership from all medical and associated scientific groups, and will serve as a forum for exchange of ideas and discussion of problems of general- interest in medical science. To one who is aware of the remarkable diversity of medical and related fields represented in Washington, an organization of this sort would seem long overdue. In addition to the various clinical fields, those of pharmacology, nutrition, chemistry, medical zoology, immunity and others are represented in the staffs of the National Institute of Health and the Beltsville Research Center; anthropology is represented in the staff of the National Museum; research in physics and physical chemistry is in progress at the Bureau of Standards; laboratories of the various preclinical medical sciences are found in the medical schools of the city, and in other organizations such fields are represented as army and navy medical administration, public health administration, epidemiology, parasitology, experimental medicine, national medical library administration, medical sociology, entomology, mycology and others. The situation in Washington is uniquely favorable for the development of a forum in which problems of general interest in medical science may be examined from all angles. In the presence of an opportunity so unusual it is believed that the academy has acted wisely in giving no special emphasis to the medical degree as compared with the doctor’s degree in one of the medical or allied sciences, and that in this sense its membership is non-medical as well as medical. E. C. A.
From Science: May 22, 1936; 83 (2160):500. Reprinted with permission from AAAS. Readers may view, browse, and/or download material for temporary copying purposes only, provided these uses are for noncommercial personal purposes. Except as provided by law, this material may not be further reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, adapted, performed, displayed, published, or sold in whole or in part, without prior written permission from the publisher.