The year 1967 was an eventful one for the Branch. Starting in May of that year, a series of letters and questionnaires were written by Richard Clark, the microbiologist at Pennsylvania Hospital, concerning the need and interest for more Clinical Microbiology oriented programs in the Philadelphia area. As later summarized by Harry Morton, “For some time, clinical microbiology had been neglected by the Branch in favor of molecular biology and virology.”  A decision was made by several Branch members to bring microbiologists who were interested in Clinical Microbiology together to discuss a way forward. A meeting notice was sent to all Branch Members, as well as other Clinical Microbiologists, who might be interested. On 25 September 1967, approximately 70 people attended a special meeting that was held in the auditorium of the Philadelphia Public Health Laboratories. The following is a summary of the official minutes of the meeting, first drafted by Branch President Albert Moat, and sent to Herman Friedman, the Branch Secretary for distribution.

Summary of the minutes of the 25 September 1967 Meeting:  An organizational meeting of a Clinical Microbiology Section of the Eastern Pennsylvania Branch of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) was held at 7:30 P.M. on Monday, September 25, 1967, in the auditorium, Philadelphia Public Health Laboratories. Richard Clark, Head, Department of Microbiology, Pennsylvania Hospital, was the convener for the meeting. He was introduced by Branch President, Albert Moat, Hahnemann Medical College, who welcomed the group and made a few statements related to desires of several microbiologists in the city to organize a Clinical Microbiology Section.  

Richard Clark made a few statements relating to the need for such a section. John McKitrick, of Children’s Hospital, moved that a Clinical Microbiology Section be organized as a subsidiary of the local ASM Branch. This motion was seconded and passed.  A steering committee was formed. Albert Moat appointed the following persons: Richard Clark, Program Chairman, Harry Morton, Pepper Laboratory, University of Pennsylvania, Theodore Anderson, Temple University, Eileen Randall, Jefferson Hospital, James Prier, Director, Pa. State Public Health Laboratory, Ralph Knight, Women’s Medical College Hospital, James Copeland, Director, City Public Health Laboratory, Albert Moat, Hahnemann Medical College, Herman Friedman, Albert Einstein Medical Center, Secretary-Treasurer, and Dr. George Warren, Wyeth Laboratories, Program Chairman, were appointed members ex officio.

The committee was directed to meet and set meeting dates and plan the programs for a Clinical Microbiology Section of the Branch. A request was made by Albert Moat for all those who were not members of the Branch to join so that the Clinical Microbiology Section could help support itself. He then introduced Earl H Spaulding, Chairman of the Microbiology Department at Temple University, who spoke on the topic: “Training in Clinical Microbiology.”

The announcement was made to the general membership by way of the lead news story in the December 1967 Branch Newsletter written by Leonard Zubrzycki.  He announced the event as follows:  

   Microbiology, Weaned on Pus: To conquer the infectious disease was the first command leveled at our infant science by history. Because five medical schools and numerous pharmaceutical houses are in the Philadelphia area, we have a large group of microbiologists who have maintained a strong interest in this unfinished job. They have organized a Section of Clinical Microbiology within our local ASM.  

The first Steering Committee meeting was held on 9 October 1967 to plan the activities for the remaining months of 1967 and for the following year. The second official meeting of the new Clinical Microbiology Section was held on 4 December 1967. Several meeting dates were set for 1968, making every effort to avoid conflicting dates with regular Branch activities. In a letter written by Dr. Friedman, dated 30 November, he noted that at the regular Branch meeting in October 1967, “…the membership voted to accept this Section. It is planned that the Clinical Microbiology Section will have 5 meetings in addition to the regularly scheduled meetings of the Eastern Pennsylvania Branch.”  The new Section increased in member numbers and activity almost from the start. A second Steering Committee meeting was held on 18 December to discuss soliciting members from the Branch and soliciting technicians to join the Clinical Microbiology Section.

Herman Friedman, the Branch Secretary, summarized the situation at the end of 1967 as follows: 

It is the expectation of those interested in Clinical Microbiology that this section  will become an important forum for the dissemination of information and for the scientific discussion of Clinical Microbiology among those interested in public health and medical laboratory aspects of microbiology in the Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania area. It is hoped that this Clinical Section will augment and not compete with the primary functions and goals of the parent Branch of ASM. 

Before the end of the decade, the Section was increasing the number of meetings per year and became so well organized that they initiated a series of several multi-day workshops. Conducting workshops became a constant feature of the Branch which continued until recent times. The Section also was influential in working with the Branch to initiate a two-day symposium on Rubella in November of 1969. This became the first in a long series of November symposia that continues to the present time. The tradition of having the symposia published in book form by a national publishing company was also initiated as part of the first symposium. The symposia and book sales eventually instituted a mechanism to generate financial stability for the Branch. Although not originally intended, the presence of the Section also created a certain tension within the Branch that eventually proved to have many positive repercussions for the future of the Branch. It should be noted that this was not always apparent as the decade was ending. One aspect of historical confusion at this time was the fact that, for the remainder of this period, there were the official Tuesday evening meetings, which were assigned official Branch Meeting numbers, and separate meetings conducted by the Clinical Microbiology Section that did not get official Branch meeting numbers. This new Clinical Microbiology Section would significantly alter the history and nature of the Branch for decades to come. 

It took great effort on the part of all parties involved to keep this new Clinical Microbiology Section as a functioning part of the Branch. This effort paid off, since the new Clinical Microbiology Section not only served the needs of the Clinical Microbiologists in the Philadelphia area, but would greatly change the nature of the entire Branch in the next decade. The regular Branch had only two standing committees, a program and, starting in 1969, a symposium committee.  The Clinical Microbiology Section was run by a Steering Committee with many standing committees to handle the greatly expanding activities, such as organizing the meetings, workshops, and a major clinical microbiology educational audio tape project, as well as several other ad hoc committees to address issues relevant to Clinical Microbiology. 

By the end of the 1960’s the nature of the Branch had changed rapidly with the activities of the Clinical Microbiology Section. It was becoming apparent that increasing numbers of members were attending the Clinical Microbiology Section meetings, often at the expense of the regular Branch meetings. This issue would become more apparent in the new decade and several Branch members came to the realization that many concerns were going to have to be addressed early in the 1970’s.

Overview of the Branch in the 1970’s: Struggling to Create A Unified Branch: 1970-1979  

In the 1970’s many people took a “wait and see attitude” to determine if the Clinical Microbiology Section would survive. The answer came rapidly. The initial goal was to have five meetings a year, independent of the regular Branch meetings, plus two workshops a year. This goal was met, and the section proceeded to take on new tasks. By 1972, the number of monthly meetings was increasing, and additional workshops were in the planning stages. One important project lead by the members of the Clinical Microbiology Section was the production of the innovative, and financially rewarding, Topics in Clinical Microbiology tape set. The impact of this tape set will be discussed below. The Clinical Microbiology Section also worked with the regular Branch Section to initiate the Clinical Microbiology oriented November Symposium series. Numbers of attendees at Clinical Microbiology Monday evening meetings were increasing significantly. At the same time, there were meetings of the regular Branch on Tuesday evenings that would sometimes attract a large audience but occasionally the regular Branch meetings had as little as five attendees. It was acknowledged that the regular Branch meeting attendance was declining. Talks were held to find a solution and in August of 1973, it was announced that a compromise had been reached. The solution was to form one organization with a defined percent of regular meetings associated with Clinical Microbiology, and all the Clinical Microbiology Section programs were carried over to the unified Branch. The next few years included much discussion within the Branch between Clinical Microbiology and Basic Science oriented members on the composition and future of the Branch. Similar discussions were also taking place within the national ASM organization. There was concern in the 1970’s that Clinical Microbiologists would split from the national organization for many of the same reasons that caused the formation of the Clinical Microbiology Section of our Branch. It took much effort on the part of the Branch leadership to hold the Branch together during these transitional years.

A true merger could not be brought about without a major restructuring of the governance of the Branch. For a true merger to occur, the Branch would have to take on the various functions of the Clinical Microbiology Section, which had committees for workshops, educational tapes, programs, education as well as several specialized committees to address issues such as new legislation and regulations. After much discussion, and a certain amount of reluctance on the part of many Clinical Microbiology Section members, a decision was made to form a new official Executive Committee to assist in unifying the Branch. Once this was in place, a merger agreement was reached in August of 1973. This meant that there were no longer two sets of meetings, and the new Executive Committee met prior to each regularly scheduled Branch meeting and kept official minutes of these meetings. This was a significant step in documenting the history of the new Executive Committee as it attempted to coordinate all activities of the various working committees. The difficulties in unifying the Branch overshadowed all other activities during this decade.  

The 1970s was an active decade filled with many accomplishments. One of the most significant early accomplishments was the introduction of the successful Topics in Clinical Microbiology audio tape set. A grant from Smith Kline & French enabled the Branch to initiate a series of special awards to Branch members for teaching and research. In April 1972, Philadelphia was host for the ninth time to the National Society for the 72nd Annual Meeting.  The Topics in Clinical Microbiology tape series was introduced to national members at this meeting.  Also, the Branch set a precedent for future National ASM meetings by sponsoring a pre-convention workshop; the topic in 1972 was computerization for clinical microbiology laboratories. 

In 1976, The First Stuart Mudd Lecture was initiated. This lecture was held every year thereafter through 1995. The lecture became a focal point for the Branch each spring with a prominent speaker, the awarding of the Stuart Mudd plaque, and the presence of Stuart Mudd family members. In November 1978, a “Branch Past Presidents Night” was celebrated. All 17 living past presidents were invited and nine were able to attend.  Each was given a Silver Reserve Bowl inscribed with their names and dates of service. 

The Branch held 14 symposia in the 1970’s.  Each symposium lasted two or three days and were all well attended by microbiologists from a broad geographical area. The symposia included a special banquet speaker and dinner for all attendees, and most symposia resulted in a published book. In addition to the ten November Symposia, there were four Basic Science Symposia in the 1970’s.  The Branch also held 22 workshops during this period. The symposia continue to the present time and workshop series continued for several decades to follow. The combined income and royalties from the symposia, workshops, books and tapes provided financial stability to the Branch, and permitted the Branch to experiment with new educational programs. 

It should be noted that the National ASM also made efforts to accommodate Clinical Microbiologists by forming a Clinical Microbiology Division in 1972, which resulted in dedicated programs as part of the General Meeting, and by creating the Journal of Clinical Microbiology that was first published in 1974.  Like the ASM on a national level, the Branch faced the same issues of how to handle a growing population of Clinical Microbiologists, who demanded specialized programs and continuing education to satisfy new regulations that applied to directors and supervisors of Clinical Microbiology hospital and private laboratories.  Once again, Eastern Pennsylvania Branch members and Philadelphians were at the forefront of this movement.   

As noted previously, in 1972, the publisher Williams & Wilkins announced what they called “A Major Audio-Visual Publishing Event” when they introduced Topics in Clinical Microbiology, edited by Richard Clark of Pennsylvania Hospital. This was a joint project between the Eastern Pennsylvania Branch and Williams & Wilkins Publishing Company. The “Topics” were described as a complete course in Clinical Microbiology and an official publication of the Eastern Pennsylvania Branch of the American Society for Microbiology. This was the culmination of a project that was started in late 1970 by members of the Clinical Microbiology Section of the Branch. It was noted in a news release by Williams & Wilkins that, “The editor has ably coordinated the eclectic contributions of 13 members of the Eastern Pennsylvania Branch. Harry Morton and James Prier, officers of the Eastern Pennsylvania Branch, assisted in the preparation.” The full set consisted of 24 compact cassettes, a complete explanatory manual with references above and beyond the taped material, and a set of colored slides. The complete set was initially priced at $187. All profits from the “Topics” went to the Branch. By current standards, in this time of podcasts, iPads and educational programs on the internet with real-time feedback, an audio-tape program seems simplistic. However, this was essentially the first of its kind on a national level in Clinical Microbiology. It dominated the field for many years. In addition to its educational and financial value to the Branch, this project was important for other reasons. It was a tribute to the Clinical Microbiology Section of the Branch and it provided publicity for the Branch as the set was used by laboratory microbiologists as well as for teaching purposes in the United States and several other countries.

Overview of the Branch in the 1980’s

The Branch entered the new decade of the 80’s with much momentum from the previous decade. There was a new energy within the Branch that pushed it to move in several directions and tackle some difficult issues. The role of the president was very different from earlier decades. The president now presided over the Executive Committee, which increased in size and complexity as new committees were formed. What follows are just some of the activities that characterized this decade.

For all ten years, there were ten meetings per year with July and August the only months without a regular Monday night meeting. Each meeting was preceded, with few exceptions, by a two-hour Executive Committee Meeting in which there was never enough time to cover all the issues that needed to be discussed. Each chairperson wanted more time and the president had to set priorities at these meetings. Branch standing committees included the following: academic affairs, archives, education, finance, industrial affairs, newsletter, placement, program, publications, publicity, membership, legislative, legal, scholarship/awards, public and scientific affairs, symposium, industrial affairs and workshop. There were also several ad hoc committees that handled annual events like the Stuart Mudd lectures and special Poster Session meetings. 

Issues that received attention included discussions of new regulations concerning qualifications for laboratory directors and Medicare reimbursements; both involved pending restrictions being placed on non-physician laboratory directors. New minimum requirements for laboratory technicians and technologists received considerable attention. The Executive Committee also tried to address the issue of what role Branches should play in the national ASM. There was a strong feeling in the Branch that the ASM was not working closely with the Branches due to a general lack of communication in sharing membership lists, mailing labels, and the scheduling of ASM workshops that conflicted with Branch workshops and the general role of Branches versus Divisions in the governance of the ASM. Many Eastern Pennsylvania Branch members became active on ASM committees during this decade.    

In addition to conducting 100 regular meetings, the Branch developed & sponsored ten well attended successful symposia, and most resulting in a published book. There were also 19 well attended workshops sponsored by the Branch. In addition, there were several one day mini-symposia and mini-workshops on specific subjects. Additionally, the Education Committee started a series of meetings and seminars designed for science teachers at all levels to increase their knowledge of microbiology and science education. This committee also produced printed microbiology materials for teachers and awarded grants to science fair winners. There was also a renewed interest in getting graduate students interested in the Branch. The old graduate student presentation night was replaced with a Poster Session Night with awards to the best posters in several categories.

Energetic discussions on issues of monthly meeting content, and the number of meetings relating to Clinical Microbiology versus basic science, were continued from the previous decade. The Clinical Microbiology oriented members felt the meetings were not being geared to their needs, and there were noticeable differences in attendance depending on how clinically oriented the topic was for a meeting. In addition, the presence of two Clinical Masters Programs with considerable enrollments strengthened the need to capture this active group since many graduates took positions in the Philadelphia area. Some of these needs were resolved by forming groups outside the Branch that were clinically relevant and open to anyone who wanted to attend. The Jefferson Clinical Microbiology Alumni Group and the Lehigh Valley Clinical Microbiology Group were just two examples. Meeting notices for these groups were routinely included in the Branch Newsletter. The Clinical Microbiology debate continued throughout the decade; however, rather than this debate being negative, it resulted in members on both sides of the issue working hard to initiate new programs. It became a very active and progressive decade for the Branch. A highlight of the decade was the celebration of the 500th Branch Meeting in December 1987. This meeting brought all elements of the Branch together for a celebration of the Branch with all its accomplishments over the past 67 years. 

Overview of the Branch in the 1990’s

The Branch entered the new decade of the 90’s as a highly organized, well-functioning association, determined to maintain the momentum from the previous decade. Serving the needs of both the clinical microbiology and basic science members was still a challenge, especially when choosing the topics for the monthly meetings. The Branch took significant steps to satisfy both sides of the clinical-basic science issue by continuing the clinical microbiology programs initiated in the previous decade and adding new programs to serve the needs of the basic scientists. In addition, as the decade progressed, there were changes in the medical community that produced significant alterations in the membership population served by the Branch, especially in the area of Clinical Microbiology. The main changes were not new to the 1990’s, but they started to have visible effects during this period. These factors resulted in the clinical laboratory becoming more of a financial burden, rather than a revenue generator, due to changes in reimbursement policies by third party payers to hospitals. This resulted in staff reductions in clinical laboratories as well as an increasing use of medical laboratory technicians (MLTs with associate degrees) to supplement or replace medical technologists (MT with bachelor’s degrees). One index of this was the sharp reduction in the Medical Technology Programs in the Philadelphia area. Another factor was the appointment of pathologists as directors of Clinical Microbiology Departments, especially in community hospitals, to better take advantage of new reimbursement rules. The net result of all these changes for the Branch was a reduction in the number or availability of directors, supervisors, technologists and technicians to attend workshops and symposia that lasted several days. At the same time, competition from other educational sources, especially self-learning modules, had the effect of reduced attendance at several Branch programs.

Another problem that became more apparent as the decade progressed was the realization that as the older Branch members retired or became inactive, there was no longer a large pool of potential new members available to replace them. There was a need for new, and especially younger members, to serve on committees, to generate ideas for branch activities and to serve as officers. Also, while the one or two well organized symposia each year required a very active committee, more Branch functions were needed to sustain the organization.  The main challenge for the Branch in the 1990’s was both how to increase the number of active members and at the same time to develop and support the many activities that members had come to expect from the Branch. There was limited success in meeting this goal.   

Despite all the difficulties outlined above, the Branch in the 90’s not only continued to carry out almost all the various activities initiated in the previous decade but managed to start some new programs.  These new programs were designed to address the changing environment and to serve the needs of the both the basic-science and clinically oriented members of the Branch. The following are just some of the activities that characterized the Branch during this decade:

There were 92 regular monthly Branch meetings in the 1990’s. In 1992, the Annual Infection and Immunity Forum was initiated and was held each year for the rest of the decade and continues to the present time. There was an annual Stuart Mudd Lecture each of the first five years of the decade. After twenty continuous years, it was decided to replace the Stuart Mudd Lecture series with The Distinguished Branch Member Lecture Series which started in 1996.  There were also 15 workshops and 11 symposia. Additionally, there were Branch poster sessions and special events celebrating the 600th Meeting and an event in honor of Smith Hall and Dr. Harry Morton.  

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