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The science and practice of human immunology

The science and practice of human immunology
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The Inception of the Clinical Immunology Society

It can truly be said that the Clinical Immunology Society (CIS) was conceived at luncheon in the 9th floor cafeteria of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 1986. John L. Fahey of UCLA was visiting me and introduced a discussion of the uncertain future of clinical immunology in the United States. I had served as chairman of a Blue Ribbon Committee of the American Association of Immunologists (AAI) that considered the status of clinical immunology. Our committee concluded that gathering all of the many facets of clinical immunology into a single medical specialty was virtually impossible and probably counterproductive. The varied diseases that fall under the umbrella of clinical immunology were already distributed among different medical specialties; it was unlikely that any single specialty could cope with this broad array of ailments. We did suggest, however, that cross-cutting organization bringing together the many clinical and basic scientists interested in different autoimmune diseases would serve a valuable purpose. The AAI council considered our report but felt that the Association should center its interest on basic research rather than on clinical applications of immunology.

Faced with this reality John Fahey and I agreed at our 9th floor luncheon that a separate organization embracing all aspects clinical immunology would serve a timely and important function. Our initial meeting at Hopkins was followed by a number of other meetings with colleagues around the country as well as at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Everyone we spoke to was enthusiastic at the idea but no one seemed anxious to undertake the job of establishing a new society. Clearly it was up to the two of us. We decided to start by setting up a national meeting termed (with some hubris), the Annual Conference on Clinical Immunology (ACCI) even though we were unsure that there would ever be a second conference. Since I was still departmental chairman at the time and had support staff available, I agreed to organize the inaugural meeting. Held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Baltimore, it turned out to be an astonishing success. Not only was the meeting scientifically productive but there was almost unanimous agreement that there should be a society to carry on the meeting on a regular basis. Thus the Clinical Immunology Society was born. It was baptized the following year when it was formally incorporated. Its initial official address was my condominium in Baltimore!

To get the society rolling, John Fahey agreed to become the first President and I undertook the job of initial Secretary Treasurer. With the aid of one of my secretarial assistants, we established a list of members, collected dues, solicited donations and developed the infrastructure to present an annual meeting. We even introduced a series of specialized workshops to expand the field of clinical immunology.

John Fahey was succeeded as President by Thomas Waldmann, Hugh McDevitt and many other leaders in the field. After my tenure as Secretary Treasurer I was succeeded by Stephen Katz, followed by Charlotte Cunningham-Rundles and, more recently, Mark Ballow. CIS was now a reality.

One additional incident in the life history of the society is worthy of attention. In 1997 the CIS had survived for a decade and reached adolescence. The President at the time, Raif Geha, called a retreat of the Council in Washington, DC to discuss the future of the society. As one of the two founders I was invited to attend and came with two specific recommendations. I suggested, first, that we adopt as our own journal Clinical Immunology and Immunopathology (now Clinical Immunology) rather than continuing to co-sponsor the Journal of Immunology with AAI and, second, that we have independent regular meetings separate from AAI annual meetings in conjunction with other related immunology societies (first the ACCI, now FOCIS). I was pleased that both ideas were accepted enthusiastically by the Council of CIS.

The Clinical Immunology Society today is a mature adult. It can look back at a series of solid successes that have strengthened all aspects of clinical immunology and promoted its growth as a vital component of medical practice and research.

Noel R. Rose, M.D., Ph.D.