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The History of IAMSE


In a meeting room of the Chicago Marriott Hotel, a group of 46 participants of the annual conference of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) first came together to consider the impact of curricular change on basic science education. The year was 1988, and the focus was on the medical education system of North America. This meeting had been called and organized by Roger W. Koment, Ph.D. The audience, some in attendance only out of curiosity, listened as Dr. Koment began the meeting with a presentation of his views concerning three fundamental issues.  


To realize that we do not stand alone. At every medical school there is at least one basic scientist who has interest in advancing the cause of medical education.  


To reaffirm our commitment to innovative quality teaching.  That those of us committed to excellence in teaching need not be apologetic for believing this is equal in importance to excellence in bench-level research.  


To evolve a recognizable group within the AAMC structure. As the recognized authority for medical education in the United States, the AAMC was the logical venue through which to promote excellence in basic science education. This was a call to action.

The underlying purpose of this meeting was to explore how, by working together and sharing our knowledge, the barriers might be overcome in preparing ourselves for proactive leadership in the evolution of both content and process for teaching the fundamental sciences of medicine. 

The outcome of this and subsequent annual meetings, was the creation of a new method for information exchange within the AAMC Group on Educational Affairs (GEA), the "Special Interest Group" (SIG). From 1988 to the dissolution of all GEA SIGs in 2000, meeting time and space was graciously provided by the GEA at the AAMC National Meeting each fall, and at all four of their Regional Meetings each spring. Each 2-hour session focused on some aspect of basic science instruction or the professional advancement of basic science faculty members. These meetings were structured to provide different viewpoints by multiple speakers, followed by audience interaction. The following titles provide some indication of the programs presented at the AAMC National Meetings. 

1988 Basic Science Faculty: Our Responsibility in Medical Curricular Change

1989 Facilitating the Need for Curricular Change

1990 Strategies for Developing a Positive Influence on Medical Education

1991 Basic Sciences in the Clinical Years

1992 Information Overload: Defining Essential Curricular Objectives

1993 The Role of Basic Scientists in Optimizing Basic Science Learning

Thus it was that between 1988 and 1993, this Special Interest Group on Basic Science Education, through its programs of relevance in teaching, attracted basic science faculty members, deans for medical education, curriculum planners, and clinical faculty members from every medical school under AAMC jurisdiction. As Convener of this National SIG, Dr. Koment facilitated the nominations and elections (by respective regional members) of four Regional SIG Conveners. With both National and Regional Chapters, this group remained the most organized of the fourteen National and twenty-three Regional Special Interest Groups on various topics in medical education that subsequently arose. In 1997 after ten years, Dr. Koment appointed Dr. Gary Rosenfeld, University of Texas Houston Medical School, as his successor to assume the leadership of basic science education within the AAMC Group on Educational Affairs.  

Today, as an independent nonprofit organization, IAMSE owes a great debt to the Association of American Medical Colleges, and in particular to the leadership of the Group on Educational Affairs, for providing an environment in which the ideals of our membership first flourished. 

1993 - WE LEAVE THE NEST... 

Between 1988 and 1993, word of this Special Interest Group spread not only to every allopathic and osteopathic medical school in the United States and Canada, but soon found its way to South America and Europe. Here, for the first time, were individuals responsible for teaching the fundamental sciences of medicine who were fostering open communication across disciplines, and freely exchanging ideas, techniques, and educational resources. Individuals from medical institutions in Venezuela and Spain were the first to request to participate. In addition, faculty members in the United States from schools of dentistry, chiropractic colleges, and even colleges of veterinary medicine facing similar needs were attracted to this concept and sought to join. But since this SIG was part of the AAMC, membership could only be offered to those individuals from AAMC-affiliated medical schools.  

Therefore, in 1993, the decision was made to create an organization that would be independent, yet parallel, to this Special Interest Group. Its name would be the Basic Science Education Forum (BSEF) and it would stand totally separate from the Association of American Medical Colleges.  Creation of this independent entity would remove all restrictions on participation, and membership at no cost was extended to all.  

Admittedly, there was an initial period of confusion in some people's minds between the new BSEF and the continuing AAMC-GEA Special Interest Group on Basic Science Education. Mostly, this was because the purpose and goals of the BSEF were identical to those of the SIG; plus, Dr. Koment and the four elected SIG Conveners constituted the leadership not only of the National and Regional AAMC-GEA SIG Chapters, but also of the BSEF.  However, this was soon overcome as word of the BSEF and its mission of mutual support and professional development continued to spread around the world.  

Many individuals contributed to the progress and achievements of the Basic Science Education Forum, but much of the momentum during those early years was the direct result of a synergistic relationship between Dr. Koment and one very unique individual. Many will remember the significant contributions of Gabriel Virella, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina. A dynamic individual, Master Teacher, and consummate professional, Dr. Virella served for many years as the Editor-in-Chief of the Basic Science Educator, our organization's first peer-reviewed journal dedicated to advances in basic science education. His provocative Editorials always hit the mark of relevance. Dr. Virella was a driving force behind the creation of our current Annual Meetings. He and Dr. Koment, both being Microbiologists, drew heavily upon their combined experiences participating in the still ongoing series of Myrtle Beach Educational Strategies Workshops for Teaching Microbiology and Immunology. It was Dr. Virella who arranged for the Medical University of South Carolina to host both our First (1993) and our Third (1997) Biennial Conferences. 


Between 1993 and 1997, the Basic Science Education Forum attracted individual members from over 400 medical institutions throughout 87 countries. Every person who requested to join received our semi-annual publication, the Basic Science Educator (previously known as The Forum Newsletter). This was the forerunner of today's peer-reviewed journal.  Financial support from software and textbook publishers was invaluable in those early years, but sporadic. We depended most heavily upon the proceeds of our international conferences on educational strategies in the basic sciences (see 1993, 1995, and 1997) to fund the printing and distribution of our publication.  

At the beginning of 1993, there were members of the Basic Science Education Forum from the United States and Canada. However, by the end of that year, individuals from other countries had begun to join in logarithmic fashion.  

Twice each year, well over 2,000 copies of our publication were being created, printed, and mailed - free of charge - to basic science colleagues and medical libraries in such diverse places as Australia, Siberia, Bangladesh, Switzerland, Japan, Israel, and Southern Chile. Each issue was between 25 and 30 pages in length and represented the work, on average, of 24 individuals.  

There was no doubt that this logarithmic increase would continue, but we were rapidly approaching the limits of resources and endurance. By mid-1996 it became overwhelmingly evident that managing a global organization of such proportions through the volunteer efforts of individuals holding full-time faculty appointments was no longer feasible. Financial resources especially could not keep up with the demand, despite personal donations by our leaders. The choice we faced was either to discontinue this great project, or to formalize our efforts by incorporating and becoming a nonprofit organization. This latter course would be the only means by which we could obtain the federal, private, and corporate funding necessary to carry on our work. 


After months of consulting with trusted colleagues, the decision was made to incorporate and levy a modest membership fee. This was accomplished effective June, 1997, when Dr. Koment assumed the title of President and Chairman of the Board of Directors. He officially changed the name of this organization to the International Association of Medical Science Educators (IAMSE) and appointed eight individuals to constitute the first Board of Directors. With the initial membership fees he procured the services of an association management company. The first Board members appointed were: 

Wolfram Antepohl, M.D.  
University of Cologne Faculty of Medicine  
Cologne, Germany 

Pamela C. Champe, Ph.D.  
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey  
Robert Wood Johnson Medical School  
Piscataway, New Jersey, U.S.A. 

Robert G. Carroll, Ph.D.  
East Carolina University School of Medicine  
Greenville, North Carolina, U.S.A. 

Denise Ferrier, Ph.D.  
MCP-Hahnemann School of Medicine  
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. 

Frances Maitland  
Alliance for Continuing Education  (Retired) 

Todd R. Olson, Ph.D.  
Yeshiva University  
Albert Einstein College of Medicine  
Bronx, New York, U.S.A. 

Gary C. Rosenfeld, Ph.D.  
University of Texas Houston Medical School  
Houston, Texas, U.S.A. 

Thomas R. Viggiano, M.D.  
Mayo Clinic and Medical School  
Rochester, Minnesota, U.S.A. 

Within one additional month, two more appointments had been made. 

Margarita Baron, M.D., Ph.D.  
Universidad de Alcala de Henares  
Facultad de Medicina  Madrid, Spain 

Gönül Ö Peker, Ph.D.  
Ege University School of Medicine  
Izmir, Turkey

The first task of the new eleven-member IAMSE Board of Directors was to draft a bylaws document that would be used to guide this organization. On June 22, 1997, during the Third Biennial International Conference, Dr. Koment announced the dissolution of the Basic Science Education Forum and the rebirth of our organization as the International Association of Medical Science Educators, a bona fide nonprofit organization. This action became effective as of July 1, 1997.  

The new Association adopted the Mission Statement previously developed for the BSEF with only minor modifications. Membership fees also provided for upgrading the Basic Science Educator and promoting its progress to become a recognized peer-reviewed journal unique in medical education because of its sole focus on cross-disciplinary basic science education. The website, developed in 1994 for the BSEF in collaboration with Dr. James Swierkosz (St. Louis University School of Medicine), was revised and adapted to now serve IAMSE.

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The birth of a new organization was a time of tremendous excitement yet fraught with difficulties, since we were still volunteers with full-time responsibilities to our individual medical schools. Because of this, progress at times was slow, yet the need that inspired creation of this association continues to be great. Through IAMSE, medical science educators finally have a trustworthy source of information and mutual support, and can belong to an organization dedicated to their professional development. The ultimate beneficiaries of our combined efforts will be the subsequent generations of health care providers around the globe - our students - who are trained in both the art and science of modern medicine.

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