History of the Chicago Dermatological Society

1901-1998

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Until 1836, there were no known doctors in the United States who specialized in diseases of the skin. On June 22, 1836, Dr. Henry D. Bulkley of New York, New York opened the Broome Street Infirmary for Diseases of the Skin. In 1845, Dr. Noah Worcester of Cincinnati, Ohio published the first complete textbook on skin diseases: A Synopsis of the Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment of the More Common and Important Diseases of the Skin. The first organized Society, the New York Dermatological Society, was established in 1869.

All of the early dermatologists received their training in Europe, in Vienna, Paris or Berlin. Dr. Charles Smith was the pioneer dermatologist in Chicago. A general practitioner who later studied dermatology in Europe, he was appointed to the attending staff in the Department of Skin Diseases at Cook County Hospital in 1869.

James Clarke White, after post graduate study in Europe, became the first Professor of Dermatology in the United States when he took that position at Harvard in 1871. James Nevens Hyde was the first to teach dermatology in Chicago when he was appointed lecturer in Dermatology in 1873 at the then thirty year old Rush Medical College. Dr. White and a group of physicians organized the American Dermatological Association in 1876. Dr. Hyde and Dr. Smith were charter members and Dr. Hyde was the first Treasurer and was very instrumental in promoting the success and prestige of this Association.

The organization of the Chicago Dermatological Society was the result of a movement which had been developing among the young, progressive and distinguished dermatologists who began practicing in Chicago in the later 1800’s.

On February 14, 1901, Dr. James Hyde invited Drs. Joseph Zeisler, W.A. Pusey, H.G. Anthony, L.D. Pardee, W.L. Braun, L.B. Baldwin, Alfred Shalik, and F.H. Montgomery to an informal dinner at the University Club of Chicago for the purpose of organizing the Chicago Dermatological Society. A Constitution and By-Laws was written and adapted by a unanimous vote with the object of the Society to be “the cultivation of dermatology in all its branches”. The Constitution contained eight articles and there were four by-laws setting the dues at $3.00 per year and limiting the meetings to active members. Others added to the list as charter members were R.D. McArthur, H.T. Ricketts, R.R. Campbell, Louis G. Schmidt and Oliver Ormsby. The society was organized as a clinical one whose sole purpose was the exhibition and discussion of cases.

This meeting was adjourned and the first clinical meeting was held at the office of Dr. Hyde on March 14, 1901, with Dr. Anthony as the chairman. Among the cases presented at this meeting were atypical zoster, blastomycosis, tinea barbae, syphilis, and two cases for diagnosis. The chairmanship of the first five meetings in 1901-1902 was rotated among the members. In 1902 Drs. Eli Fishkin and David Lieberthal were elected active members.

At the first annual meeting in January, 1903, Dr. Hyde was elected the first president, Dr. Zeisler the vice-president and Dr. Pardee the secretary. Dr. Pardee served as secretary for seven years.

Dr. Hyde and Dr. Ormsby, after Dr. Hyde’s death and Dr. Pusey with their associates were responsible for the firm basis which started the Chicago Dermatological Society and gave leaders in dermatology not only in Chicago, but in other cities in the United States. Dr. Hyde at Rush Medical College was associated with Frank Montgomery, H.G. Anthony, Ernest McEwen, William Quinn, Alfred Schalek, Howard T. Ricketts and Oliver Ormsby. Dr. Pusey was appointed Professor of Dermatology at the College Of Physicians (the University of Illinois College of Medicine) in 1894 and Dr. Zeisler was appointed Professor of Dermatology at the Northwestern University Medical School. After Dr. Hyde’s death in 1910, Dr. Ormsby became Professor of Dermatology at Rush Medical College.

In 1905, invitations were first sent to prominent dermatologists from midwestern cities to attend the annual meeting and in 1906 a category of corresponding membership was established in the By-Laws to elect to membership physicians in good standing residing outside Chicago. Dr. O.H. Foerster of Milwaukee, Wisconsin was the first member elected under this new By-Law.

Dr. E.L. McEwen was appointed recorder for publishing cases in The Journal of Cutaneous Diseases. This journal has been published under various names and sponsors from The American Journal of Syphilis and Dermatology in 1860 to the present day Archives of Dermatology. The case publications and the annual meetings were the beginning of the regional and national prestige of the Chicago Dermatological Society and were anticipated by all midwestern dermatologists.

In 1911 the purpose as rewritten in the Constitution reads “the object shall be the study of dermatology in all its branches, the edification of its individual members in their chosen specialty and the cultivation of a fraternal spirit among its members.” That the Society has superlatively achieved this is well known.

Drs. Hyde, Pusey, and Ormsby guided and shaped the policies of the Society for more than forty years. The positions of Dr. Pusey and Dr. Ormsby at the meetings were like those of expected chiefs at a tribal council meeting. These two leaders drew important dermatologists from the midwest to the annual meetings and among the Society’s distinguished colleagues were Udo Wile of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Martin Engman and William Mook of St. Louis, Missouri, Otto Foerster and Clarence Bear of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Samuel Sweitzer, H.H. Stokes and G.M. Olson of Minneapolis, Minnesota. As the Society grew, the meetings gained a nationwide reputation and were the model used to form many other local societies at St. Louis, Michigan, Minnesota and Cincinnati Dermatological Societies. Joint meetings were held with the American Medical Association and in 1901 and 1931 with the American Academy of Dermatology on four occasions.

In 1925, the membership was increased from twenty-five to thirty members. In 1926, the Mississippi Valley Conference on Dermatology was founded with yearly meetings rotating between the Chicago, Minnesota and St. Louis Dermatological Societies. The Cincinnati, New Orleans, Kansas City, Texas and Oklahoma Societies also became affiliated with the Conference.

The early meetings were held up to 1926 in Dr. Ormsby’s office and then moved to Cook County Hospital and the University of Illinois. In 1930 a second society oriented toward research was proposed, but the membership of the CDS was increased from thirty to thirty-five and a new society was not formed. To be Diplomat of the American Board of Dermatology became a requirement for active membership in 1938. In 1939 Minnie Pearlstein became the first woman member to be elected. In the first forty years there were two hundred sixty-one clinical meetings at which three thousand five hundred clinical cases were presented and discussed.

The influence of the Society grew rapidly when Chicago took part in the demand for post-graduate training. Residents from the medical schools in Chicago came to hear cases from their schools discussed. The needs of practicing dermatologists in and around Chicago were also realized and in 1940 the membership was increased from thirty-five to forty and in 1942 university staffs and dermatologists from nearby cities were invited as guests. The quality and nature of the cases and discussions extended the Society’s influence as well as its size.

Dr. Oliver Ormsy continued at Rush until 1940 with Edward Olivier, James Mitchell, Clark Finnerud, Michael Ebert and Ruben Nomland. Dr. Arthur Stillians followed Dr. Fred Harris at Northwestern until 1940 and was then followed by Dr. Edward Oliver. Other distinguished men at Northwestern were Drs. Ernest Zeisler, Henry Hedge and Herbert Rattner. In 1924 Francis Senear followed W.A. Pusey at the University of Illinois. On the department staff were Max Wein, Leonard Weber, Marcus Caro and Theodore Cornbleet. Dr. Stephen Rothman succeeded Dr. Samuel Becker at the University of Chicago. Many prominent out-of-town dermatologists were active members in the society and included Paul O’Leary, Henry Michelson, Arthur Curtis, Hamilton Montgomery, Carl Laymon, Francis Lynch, Henry Foerster, Louis Brunsting, Richard Weiss and others. Thus the Chicago Dermatological Society was no longer a city society. It became a distinctly regional society and attracted to its meetings dermatologists from a radius of five hundred miles.

The first era of dermatology gave early morphological descriptions of what today are common skin diseases and established diagnostic criteria and the natural history of these diseases. The early dermatologists established the specialty by their great familiarity and knowledge of many skin diseases and their accurate morphological observations.

The second era of dermatology came with the realization that diseases of the skin offered a great field for research and investigation. In Chicago under the leadership of Stephen Rothman, Adolph Rostenberg, and Herbert Rattner, the physiologic, pharmacologic, and pathologic problems of cutaneous diseases in every day practice came under scientific investigation. With this growth in scope, the type of cases presented at the meetings of the Chicago Dermatological Society changed decidedly. With improvement in procedures in pathology, biochemistry, immunology, etc., the data presented with each case changed the emphasis and the over-all evaluation took the first rank in the diagnostic discussions.

In recent years dermatology has continued to change. In addition to case presentations and discussions, Peer Review, Health Maintenance Organizations, Medicare, Medicaid Professional Liability, and Continuing Education are all recent interests which have to be addressed to give the best dermatological care to all segments of the population.

The contemporary members of the Chicago Dermatological Society who are leaders in research, clinical dermatology and education on the local, national and international levels are all well known to all dermatologists. There in now only one type of membership and the Chicago Dermatological Society as three hundred fifty members from fifteen states.

The meetings are rotated among the dermatology department of the training centers in Chicago. Guest lecturers and clinicians are present at each meeting to enhance the value of the discussions. Through the ninety-four year history, various formats have been considered, but the original method of live case presentation and discussion is still the best method of meeting all dermatologists’ needs. In 1994, the Chicago Dermatological Society was awarded the Excellence in Education award by the American Academy of Dermatology.

With the clinical cases and the informal discussion, there are few, if any dermatoses which have not been presented. The value of the diffusion of clinical knowledge among its members which the rich clinical material has produced is impossible to estimate. The educational benefits of the meetings, the mutual respect of the members, and the satisfaction derived from the close contracts enrich the life of every member. The history, growth, and sphere of influence of the Chicago Dermatological Society has given it an enviable position in American and world dermatology. Several CDS members have provided recent leadership in the Chicago dermatology departments.

This is essentially a record of the Chicago Dermatological Society form its origins as revealed by a study of the minutes and the previous historical accounts. If, for any reason, a name has been omitted or proper credit has not been given where it is due, such omission is unintentional.

Marshall L. Blankenship, M.D.

Last Updated on Friday, October 10, 2014 07:55 PM