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The First Annual Session

On April 11-13, 2019, the American College of Physicians will host its Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, home of the ACP’s international headquarters. The meeting will be the ACP’s 100th annual conference—or will it? For several decades, ACP archivists have struggled to pinpoint the date of the College’s first annual meeting due to holes in the historical record.

The only historical sources that reference meetings in the early years of ACP are our first two College biographies, William Gerry Morgan's The American College of Physicians: Its First Quarter Century (1940) and George Morris Piersol's Gateway of Honor: The American College of Physicians 1915–1959 (1962) as well as some clinical meeting discussions reprinted in the early 1920s. Both Morgan and Piersol agree that the first formal meeting of the officers of the ACP began at 5:00 p.m. on June 25, 1915 at the Hotel Astor in New York City. They also concur that the meeting consisted of the College’s 11 founding Fellows. Per Morgan and Piersol, two subsequent meetings took place on July 12 and October 7, 1915. These early “officer-only” meetings cultivated organizational norms, rules, and structures for the developing organization.

There is no record of any more meetings until November 6, 1916, when the officers met in Dr. Heinrich Stern's New York City office. Several weeks later, on December 29, 1916, the officers again met at the Hotel Astor in New York. Although we cannot confirm the nature of the meeting –- no primary sources are extant -- a “clinical session” and an informal convocation ceremony might have been held for the 62 newly-elected Fellows. Regardless of the session’s content, we do know that ACP leadership at the time viewed this as the College’s “First Annual Meeting.”

Pittsburgh, 1917

The following year, the ACP’s annual session was held at the William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Morgan and Piersol agree that both a convocation and a clinical session took place at this meeting, held on December 27-28, 1917. Although some sources suggest that no meeting was held in 1918 because of the First World War, an annual meeting was in fact held on December 30, 1918 in New York City. Twelve new Fellows were elected and an informal convocation was held just prior to the annual business meeting and a small “clinical session.”

Sometime between the 1919 annual meeting (again in NYC) and the 1920 meeting in Chicago (the first to resemble the modern Annual Meeting with a “formal, significant clinical session”), the College’s new leadership came to view the 1917 Pittsburgh meeting as the organization’s true first session. Official numbering of Annual Sessions/Internal Medicine Meetings began with the 1920 session, called the “Fourth Annual Meeting.” Although the 26th Annual Session was held in St. Paul in 1942, World War II interrupted the ACP’s meeting schedule. The 1943 Annual Session scheduled for Philadelphia was cancelled and the College resolved to suspend the session until the war’s end. No formal sessions were held in 1943, 1944, and 1945. The 27th Annual Session, the first full-scale session since 1942, was held in Philadelphia from May 14 - 17, 1946. 

In the decades since the end of World War II, various dates have been considered the College’s official “First” Annual Session. After determining that the two essential components of an Annual Meeting were convocation and scientific (clinical) sessions, the College has determined that the 1917 Annual Session in Pittsburgh was indeed the College’s First Annual Session—making this year’s meeting the College’s 100th Annual Meeting.    


Sources:

  • Prepared by Eric Greenberg, based on materials from the Archives of the American College of Physicians
  • Morgan, W. G. (1940). The American College of Physicians It's First Quarter Century. Philadelphia: American College of Physicians
  • Piersol GM. (1962) Gateway of Honor. Philadelphia: American College of Physicians.