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April 11-13, 2019
Internal Medicine Meeting 2019
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The Convocation of the American College of Physicians is an
annual ceremony whereby the College recognizes and applauds its new
Fellows and the recipients of various honors. It is a ceremony of
tradition, transition, renewal, and celebration. The first American
College of Physicians Convocation was held in 1916, the year after
the College's founding. Early Convocations were devoted largely to
the induction of new Fellows. In 1929, the John Phillips Memorial
Award was established, and all subsequent Convocations have
included recognition of awards. From a single award in 1929, the
roster of awards has grown to 20. In 1924, the first Master was
elected; henceforth, Convocation has recognized new Masters as well
as new Fellows and awardees. The first Honorary Fellowship was
bestowed in 1950, and since that time these honorees have been
included in Convocation.
Convocation is conducted in full academic regalia, a ceremonial
form of dress that dates back to the twelfth century. Originally,
medieval students and faculty wore their everyday long robes to
classes; even as styles changed the robes persisted as "working
uniforms" for academics, clerics, and judges. Oxford University
soon took on the role of scholarly "dress-code police" and in the
fifteenth century assigned certain fabrics and colors to each
academic discipline. The hood especially came to hold particular
In the United States, academic garb was rather a haphazard
affair until the turn of the twentieth century when the
Intercollegiate Commission was founded. The Commission established
an academic costume code based upon British tradition, which is in
use to this day.
According to the current etiquette, only holders of a doctoral
degree-MD, PhDs, JDs, and so forth-may have velvet on their gowns,
and only doctors may wear a gold tassel on the cap. Moreover, the
doctor's hood is longer than that of any other degree. Hoods for
all degrees are lined with silk in the official colors of the
institution conferring the degree. The velvet border on the outside
of the hood is also significant; its color indicates the discipline
to which the degree pertains. For example, royal purple,
traditionally associated with a king's justice, signifies law. The
deep green color on medical doctors' hoods comes from the green of
herbs, healers in humanity's earliest pharmacopoeia.
Other aspects of Convocation have long and colorful traditions
as well. The heavy, ornamental mace carried by the Marshal was made
for the College in London and contains many design elements
symbolic of medicine. The mace was originally a symbol of power
dating back to ancient Egypt and used as a weapon up through the
Crusades. Later, the mace became a symbol of authority in
government and, in the case of universities and learned societies,
of leadership, scholarship, and dignity. The caduceus carried by
the College's president is descended from the symbolic staff
carried by a herald in ancient Greece, which now symbolizes the
physician's calling. It is a slender silver rod or scepter, an
exact replica of the caduceus carried by the president of the Royal
College of Physicians in London since its founding in the sixteenth
In its annual Convocation, the College recognizes and embodies
these traditions of medicine and scholarship. This ceremony marks
the transition and transformation experienced by new Fellows,
Honorary Fellows, Masters, and awardees. Additionally, it thereby
marks a renewal of the College's mission to promote excellence in
medicine. Most of all, Convocation is a time for the entire
membership body to celebrate and commemorate the accomplishments of
our many honorees and their contributions to the art and science of