George E. Battit, MD
August 6, 2009
Prior to World War II there were very few physicians interested in the science and the art of anesthesiology. In fact there were very few physicians who could be called an “anesthesiologist,” or even “anesthetist”. At that time anesthesia was mainly ether and nitrous oxide/oxygen by inhalation, thiopental sodium intravenously and procaine by the subarachnoid route! The individuals administrating these drugs were general practitioners, nurse anesthetists, residents in surgery, and the occasional surgeon who administrated spinals to patients upon whom he was to operate. There were very few true residencies in Anesthesia through out the country.
There were no major nationwide organizations representing the specialty of anesthesiology prior to 1935. At that time the “New York Society of Anesthetists” was established by a group of physicians from Long Island who had been meeting erratically for several years to discuss problems associated with the administration of anesthesia. They changed the name of this group to “The American Society Anesthesiologists” in 1945 and it became a true national organization with a constitution, by laws, and “component societies.” Most of the doctors administering anesthesia became members of the ASA, even before there was a component Society.
The Massachusetts Society of Anesthesiologists was conceived at a meeting of a few physicians held in the office of Dr. Urban Eversole, the Chief of Anesthesia at the Lahey Clinic. There on April 23, 1948, this “Committee for Constitution and By-laws” met and accepted the Constitution of the Minnesota Society with minor changes. The ASA had made this suggestion to save time and energy at the MSA. A meeting was called of all the ASA members in Massachusetts on May 11, 1948 to ratify the constitution which had been drawn up by the Committee and to elect officers of the MSA for the coming year. The officers elected at this meeting included Dr. Urban Eversole, as President, Dr. Jacob Fine as Vice-President, and Dr. Robert Smith as Secretary Treasurer. Drs. Eversole and Smith were also elected as delegates to the ASA. Then on the 8th day of July, 1948, the ASA issued the charter establishing the Massachusetts Society of Anesthesiologists as a Component Society of the ASA.
From that day to this the MSA has continued to “advance the science and art of anesthesiology;” to seek the betterment of the individual member;” and “to uphold, adhere to and promote the aims, principles and purposes of the ASA.”
The MSA has fought for the recognition, safety, and financial security of all its members. The struggles to accomplish these objections go back as far as the creation of the MSA when the “anesthetist” was reimbursed at the rate of a given percentage of the surgeon’s fee, usually around 10 per cent. Although this continues as one of its struggles, the MSA continues to advocate relentlessly on behalf of its members. Alone, an anesthesiologist could not accomplish very much in the arena of social status/recognition of the anesthesiologist, improving patient care and safety, continuing the education of the anesthesiologist, etc., etc.! But, united as an organized group of professionals, the MSA has accomplished many of these goals and continues to carry on its shoulders the battles of the individual anesthesiologist. As a result, the members take a great deal of pride in their association.
Photo credits: Boston Medical Journal provided by the ASA Chest belonging to surgeon, John Collins Warren. credit: Alex Peck Antiques.