I served as the Conference Director for the First AAEM Scientific Assembly in 1994 held in my hometown of Philadelphia. At the time I was the Residency Director of the MCP Residency and recruited Dave Wagner, MD my Chair at the time and a one of the true founders of the specialty to be the Keynote Speaker on “The Past, Present and Future of EM”. Having Dave as my Chair was essential to my early involvement with AAEM as many other academic faculty members were pressured to avoid any affiliation with AAEM. This fact became apparent to me as I called my colleagues around the country to speak at this meeting and many replied that they “were not allowed” to do so.
These prohibitions on affiliating with AAEM were based on the contention that it was a “radical organization” out to divide/destroy EM. Talk about “fake news”! At the time we stood mainly for these two principles: 1. To be a specialist in EM one had to hold legitimate board certification and 2. Physicians should own their practices and not have their professional lives controlled by corporations. This attack on AAEM was launched because we were challenging the main EM specialty society which was heavily influenced by contract management groups and at the time allowed non-certified physicians to become full voting members.
The First Scientific Assembly was remarkable to me in two ways. It was expressly designed for an audience of practicing board-certified EM physicians making it the first EM conference of that nature. (You will note that this remains the intent of the Scientific Assembly) Secondly, the whole conference buzzed with the knowledge that this was “something bigger” than an educational meeting. It was a major step saying AAEM is here to stay. Each speaker and attendee was in their way “endorsing” the mission statement of EM and agreeing with those two above principles. Everyone one on the list of speakers deserves our thanks and respect. They took a personal risk in helping this conference succeed. Thank you to Drs. Buffaloe, Danzyl, Dire, Freas, Goldfrank, Heller, Hoffman, Jaffe, Kealy, King, Loiselle, Panacek, Roberts, Wagner and Yealy. And yes, that list includes some of the greatest leaders of EM.