The Society for the History of Navy Medicine

Early in my post-retirement career as amateur historian, I made regular trips to the east coast to research the history of the Navy’s first hospital on the west coast, at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, across the Napa River from my Vallejo, California home. These trips inevitably led me to Navy medicine’s historical office, with its collection of materials from almost all American Naval facilities. During one of those visits, the historian there, Andre’ Sobocinski said, “You know, there are many people like you who have an interest in the history of navy / maritime medicine, but there is no organization that supports their work. What we need is some sort of scholarly society for this purpose.”

A year later, in 2006, The Society for the History of Navy Medicine was launched. With Andre’s help in getting names and addresses, we grew the Society to around 170 members from around the world. By charging modest voluntary dues ($20 a year at the time), we built a large enough treasury to afford generous travel grants for graduate / professional students giving papers at our academic panels (at AMSUS, AAHM, Naval Academy McMullen, NASOH), a research grant program, and, recently under Executive Director Professor Annette Finley-Croswhite, the biennial Harry D Langley Book Prize in the History of Maritime Medicine.

I stepped down as (volunteer) Executive Director in 2013, after nearly eight years on the job. Mr Jim Dolbow served for one year and then Professor Finley-Croswhite stepped up to lead the Society for the past four years. As I mentioned, Professor Finley-Croswhite led us to partner with the North American Society for Oceanic History for our most recent two academic panels, she launched our book prize and otherwise enhanced the status of the enterprise by her own luminous academic reputation and energy. Professional and family demands have required Annette to step down and so I’ve taken the mantle again. (We’ve learned that it’s really hard to recruit volunteers to lead organizations! If you know of a retired Navy medical type who has the fire in the belly for promoting the history of maritime / navy medicine, let me know.)

My immediate goals for the Society are to grow the membership and to build our finances. If you know people who work in the history of maritime medicine, or who like to support such efforts, steer them to our website.

If you’re interested in joining the Society, go to its Membership page.

©2018 Thomas L Snyder

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