There was an animated discussion on Item 4 at the end of which the chairman, Prof James Mackintosh, (Prof of Public Health at the LSHTM), expressed the conclusion of the meeting in the following words:
“It was agreed in principle that a British Society of Preventive and Social Medicine should be formed with the following essential features:
It should be a wholly independent society. Its main object should be the advancement of academic social medicine, primarily in the research field. The society should normally hold its meetings at the various academic and research institutes with which its members are professionally associated. The place of meeting should be selected for its scientific interest rather than for accessibility. The society should approach the governing body of the Journal of Preventive and Social Medicine with a view to forming a close association. The membership of the Society should be limited by certain criteria which will be gradually established as it develops. In the initial stages however, membership would be offered to all who hold academic and research positions in this field. It was agreed that the operative basis of the Society should be in the nature of an annual conference lasting perhaps two or three days and, according to need, one other meeting during the year.”
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When James Mackintosh put this motion to the meeting Jerry Jessop, Prof. of Social Medicine at Trinity College Dublin, called out from the back of the room “Do you mind omitting the word British?” After a moment of stunned silence there was a general murmur of “Agreed”.
So the new society became The Society for Social Medicine and it has enjoyed and benefited from its inclusion of members from the Republic of Ireland ever since.
A steering committee of five was elected at the meeting.
Chairman W. J. E. Jessop
Hon.Sec Alice Stewart
Treasurer John Pemberton
Other members of the committee:
The steering committee had been given powers of co-option and on the following afternoon it co-opted Richard Doll.
At the final session of the London meeting a discussion on International Aspects took place and it was decided to accept the invitation of Prof A Querido to hold an international study group in the Netherlands in 1957. This meeting was held as planned and became the first international scientific meeting of the organisation which later became The International Epidemiological Association (IEA) (See IEA website for history and photo).
The first scientific meeting of the Society for Social Medicine took place in Birmingham at the end of September 1957 and that of the IEA in Noordwijk, on the Dutch coast, at the beginning of the same month.
From the beginning, membership of the Society for Social Medicine was offered to those, not necessarily medically qualified, who held academic or research posts in social medicine.
Early non-medical members who contributed much to the Society included Prof Margot Jefferys, Dr Ann Cartwright and Mrs Vera Carstairs.
Medical Officers of Health and their deputies or assistants were only offered membership if they had carried out research in social medicine. It was felt that if membership had been thrown open to all who were working in the field of public health that the Society might have become unbalanced in that direction. By 1973 the conditions of membership had been widened and simply stated that “Membership of the Society shall be open to all those who contribute to the objectives of the Society”.
When the society was founded there were already some distinguished clinicians who had recognised the important contributions that social medicine and epidemiology could make, and was making, to their branches of medicine. These included Sir George Pickering, Regius Professor of Medicine in Oxford and Melville Arnott, Professor of Medicine in Birmingham. Sir Aubrey Lewis, Professor of Psychiatry and head of the Maudsley Institute, London, was an early member and attended several of the scientific meetings. Will Pickles, the Yorkshire general practitioner who had carried out some remarkable research on infectious diseases in his Wensleydale practice and later became the first president of the College (later Royal College) of General Practitioners, was a founder member.
Other early members, distinguished in their own fields, included Lancelot Hogben, Lionel Penrose and Jack Tizard.
The strength and influence of the Society from an early stage was probably increased by having distinguished representatives from a variety of disciplines other than medicine.
The first annual scientific meeting of the Society was organised by the Department of Social Medicine of Birmingham University with Prof Tom McKeown in the chair. The second was in Trinity College, Dublin, with Prof WJE Jessop, in the chair.