About the Society for the History of Navy Medicine

The Society for the History of Navy Medicine (sponsor of this blog) was founded in 2006.  It came into being as result of conversations between co-founder and Executive Director Tom Snyder, a retired surgeon and retired Navy Reservist, who was then making regular visits to the historical library at the Office of the Historian of the U S Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BuMed) for a research project, and co-founder Andrè Sobocinski, Deputy Historian in that Office.  On several occasions Mr Sobocinski remarked that many historical researchers come through his office, and that there seemed to be no scholarly “home” for this group of people who are interested in research, study and publication on all matters relating to the history of medicine in the maritime environment.  Captain Snyder eagerly agreed to take on the project of creating this scholarly home.

A few months later, the Society’s founding meeting took place at 7 AM on a Sunday morning at the Halifax meeting of the American Association for the History of Medicine (AAHM), when Captain Snyder and four other stalwarts* gathered over coffee and donuts to launch the effort.  The five adopted a Vision and Mission Statement, and the Society officially took life.

While it is an entirely independent organization, the Society has enjoyed a mutually supportive relationship with the Office of the Historian since its inception.  That Office has been an active source for member referrals–visitors and researchers who have the interests noted–and has kindly electronically provided its bimonthly publication, The Grog Ration, to Society members.  For its part, the Society provides a repository of past editions of the Ration on its website, www.history-navy-med.org, and has undertaken to promote publications, movies and other activities of the Office of the historian.  One of the Society’s true “angels”, from its inception, has been retired medical Rear Admiral Fred Sanford, until recently the Executive Director of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States.  He continues to be an indispensable supporter and guide.

In its early years, the Society carried on business as a nearly completely “virtual” organization, sponsoring panels in conjunction with the AAHM, of which it is a constituent member.  It did this with no income and no budget, the occasional expenses being covered by “donations” from Snyder and Sobocinski.  In 2008 the Foundation for the History of Navy Medicine was incorporated as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) public benefit corporation.  Its purpose is to raise funds from tax-deductible donations to promote the preservation of the history of Navy medicine.  It uses the Society as a means to that end, inasmuch as the Society shares this common goal with the Foundation.

One of the first initiatives undertaken by the Foundation Board of Directors was a move to broaden the reach of the Society by rotating its annual meetings among three “constituencies”–its “home” of medical historians, the AAHM; and adding the community of military medical professionals as embodied in the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States; and the community of military / naval historians.  As a result, the Society mounted a very successful panel at the AMSUS meeting in Phoenix in November 2010; it aims to mount a panel at the U S Naval Academy History Symposium in September 2011.

Early in 2010, the Society and the Foundation instituted a program of tax deductible $20 voluntary annual dues-donations and $250 Life Memberships.  These are opportunities for Society members and others who support its mission an opportunity to do so financially.  In the autumn of 2010 the Society announced the first result of this financial support, a Travel Grant Program which offers one $750 grant each year to an undergraduate or graduate student whose paper is accepted for presentation at the Society’s annual meeting.

As it approaches its fifth year, the Society boasts an international membership of more than 150 academics, medical professionals and others interested in supporting its mission, and is proud of its role as a place of Community, Collaboration and Camaraderie for people interested in our little corner of scholarship in history.

*  The 7 AM Stalwarts, in addition to Captain Snyder, Society Executive Director and blogger-in-chief , were:  Alan Hawk, currently manager of  historical collections at the National Museum of Health and Medicine; Dale Smith, currently Professor and Chairman of the Department of Medical History at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences; L G Walker, a former Navy medical officer, Emeritus Clinical Professor of Surgery at the University of North Carolina and published medical historian; and Ely Robert Tandeter, practicing internist with an interest in medical history.

18 November 2010

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