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Medical Mycology

The following are notes on the history of ASM Division F, written by Dexter H. Howard and published in 1974 in the Medical Mycology Society of the Americas Newsletter.

While I was organizing some correspondence preparatory to turning over the chairmanship of the Medical Mycology Section of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) to Dr. Stanley Rosenthal, I came across a group of letters which told of the origins of the Medical Mycology group within the Society. The material was fragmentary and the time necessary to make it less so was not available to me. Nevertheless, I decided to construct this note for the MMSA Newsletter in order to express my own appreciation to those involved and to make other mycologists aware of persons who have worked diligently for goals now realized in the Diamond Jubilee Year of the ASM. With apologies, then, for any oversight which my incomplete source material may occasion, here are a few whose work was important in the creation of the Division of Medical Mycology within the ASM.

On November 6, 1961 Drs. Lorraine Friedman and Don Schneidau wrote to Dr. John E. Blair, who was then President of the Society, and suggested that a Division of Mycology be created within the ASM. The purpose of the division would be to arrange a program centered in the topic of mycology and to give a focal point to the activities of mycologists within the ASM rather than in the several other Societies into which they were then scattered. This first request had been written by Drs. Friedman and Schneidau as a consequence of discussions with Drs. Lucille Georg and L. Ajello. Dr. Blair responded promptly by suggesting that a section of Medical Mycology within the Division of Medical Microbiology would be a likely way to begin and encouraged Drs. Friedman and Schneidau to solicit expressions of interest from other mycologists. Drs. A. Kligman, L. Ajello, L. Georg, M. Silva-Hutner, C.C. Campbell, A. Howell, H. Larsh, C. Emmons and M. Gordon were "among those who wrote" to Dr. Blair in response to this request. He in turn recommended that the incipient mycology group organize a round table for the 62nd Annual Meeting in Kansas City, Mo., May, 1962. This was done and a well attended round table together with 10 individual research papers were presented.

Dr. R.L. Starkey, President of ASM in 1963, wrote to Lorraine Friedman and acknowledged that a well attended round table on mycology and one session of papers on that subject had been incorporated into the Medical Microbiology Division at the Kansas City meeting. He promised to bring the matter of organizing a unit of Medical Mycology before the Council Policy Committee of the Society.

There is a large gap in the retained correspondence at this point, so I will continue briefly from memory. Dr. N.F. Conant was Chairman of the Medical Microbiology Division in 1963. This fortunate coincidence facilitated an organization meeting at the Annual Meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, 1963. At that time plans were made and officers selected. I am uncertain if a chairman, other than Dr. Conant, functioned at this meeting. The chairmanship of the section on Medical Mycology of the Division of Medical Microbiology was subsequently filled by L. Friedman (1964), L. Ajello (1965), M. Silva-Hutner (1966), M. Huppert (1967), H. Levine (1968), H. Hasenclever (1969), H. Larsh (1970), M. Gordon (1971), I. Weitzman (1972), W. Kaplan (1973), D. Howard (1974). The current chairman of the newly created Division of Medical Mycology is Dr. S. Rosenthal.

In 1965 tentative plans were made for the organization of the Medical Mycological Society of the Americas. Amid some fears that this represented creation of a fragmentary society for mycology, reassurances were given that the function of the new group would be mainly social. At this same time a vigorous effort to obtain "Divisional Status" for the Section on Medical Mycology was begun. This change was considered important in order to achieve greater control over the program and wider recognition of the unit devoted to mycology within the Society. A plea for such status was communicated to Dr. R. Housewright, President of ASM, 1966, by Dr. C. Emmons. A reply from Dr. P. Gerhardt, Secretary of the Society, recommended that the mycology group remain a section until its size was more in accord with the usual division. The reason was properly questioned by many and a petition for divisional status (signed by Drs. M. Huppert, L. Ajello, C. Campbell, H. Hasenclever, M. Gordon, H. Larsh, H. Levine, M. Silva-Hutner and C. Emmons) was forwarded to Dr. S. Louria, President (1967) of the Society. The petition was placed on the agenda of the Council Policy Committee, July 25, 1967. On January 2, 1968 a letter was received by Dr. H. Levine from Dr. D.E. Shay, Secretary of the Society. The letter states "It gives me a great deal of pleasure to advise you that your proposal of July 11, 1967, requesting the reconstitution of the Medical Mycology Section as a Division of the ASM was approved by the council Policy Committee of the Society at their December 1967 meeting". This letter was followed by a flurry of letters duly recognizing H. Levine's work in accomplishing this result. However, the Meetings Board and the Annual Meetings Committee raised some objection to the action and H. Levine accompanied by L. Friedman , H. Huppert, L. Ajello and C. Emmons attended a meeting of the Council Policy Committee in Detroit, 1968. In June of that year the action of the previous Council Policy Committee was rescinded and Divisional Status was not granted after all.

During the intervening years most of the goals for seeking recognition as a "Division" have been realized. Thus the chairman of the section on Medical Mycology selects and arranges papers to be presented, chooses convenors, and is responsible for organizing a seminar session . Although a member of the section does not usually sit on the divisional program committee, my own experience was one of complete cooperation. In fact, no changes in my recommendations for this year's meeting in Chicago were made. I suspect that larger sections might not experience the same unaltered reaction to their program plans. Nevertheless, our experience, in the last several years, has been satisfactory.

The ASM continued to grow and reorganization was recognized to be essential. The committee created to deal with this reorganization included L. Friedman. Although there were some misgivings about the structure of the new divisional system, it has been enacted this year and the Section on Medical Mycology became the Division of Medical Mycology at the Chicago Meeting. Thus we will continue our work under a new title, and as explained at the outset, I thought it would be a good idea to thank those who have worked hard to strengthen the discipline of medical mycology within ASM. Many have labored; a few have been recognized in this essay. To all, my own appreciation. Looking to the root of the matter, I will close with a quote from a letter from Chester Emmons to Lorraine Friedman back in 1966; "We are indebted to you (L. Friedman) and Don Schneidau for getting the mycology section of the ASM going so vigorously". We are, indeed, indebted.

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Created: June 1998
Revised: March 2008