The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) is a community of over 12,000 physicians, scientists and public health experts who specialize in infectious diseases. Our purpose is to improve the health of individuals, communities, and society by promoting excellence in patient care, education, research, public health, and prevention relating to infectious diseases.
IDSA was formed in 1963. It sprang from two groups:
One was a dinner group, initiated by Jay P. Sanford, MD, which met every spring in Atlantic City, NJ, during the joint annual meetings of the American Federation for Clinical Research (AFCR), the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI), and the Association of American Physicians (AAP). This event featured leaders of the field who discussed infectious disease topics and presented their clinical investigations. Members of AAP and ASCI were invited to share ideas and participate in informal discussions that were highly intellectual and stimulating. The dinner became a highlight of the annual meetings, and there were calls to formalize the group.
Meanwhile, in Washington, DC, another group had formed out of the American Society for Microbiology’s (ASM) antibiotics meetings that took place each fall. Sponsored by Henry Welch, PhD, this group discussed the latest trends and advances in antimicrobial therapy. However, some attendees believed that the non-therapeutic facets of infectious diseases were not being addressed. They proposed a dinner group that would discuss the pathogenesis of infectious diseases, attributes of microbes, immune reactions, and epidemiologic dilemmas. In 1962, Maxwell Finland, MD, a premier investigator, spearheaded this gathering.
Goal for a New Organization
Dr. Finland reached out to John E. Blair, president of ASM, who offered to support a new infectious diseases division within ASM. Though Finland was partial to Dr. Blair’s offer, he arranged a committee that would consider the possibilities and develop a plan.
Lowell A. Rantz, MD, chaired the committee and Edward H. Kass, MS, PhD, MD, acted as the secretary. After much consideration, the committee decided to set up the organization independent of ASM. They determined that an independent organization would not only better benefit the infectious diseases group, but it would potentially merit greater acknowledgment of the importance of infectious diseases research.
The goal of the new society would be to cultivate the growing knowledge of infectious diseases, endorsing scientific programs and retaining an elite membership of persons whose work showed significant contributions to the field. The committee reached out to 250 individuals from a myriad of sources. When surveyed, the vast majority supported forming a new, independent infectious diseases organization. Dr. Finland then called an organizational meeting of the projected new society.
The First IDSA Meeting
On October 26 and 27, 1963, the organizational meeting took place at the Airlie House in Warrenton, VA. For the first meeting, 125 charter members and other guests attended. The organizing committee was named as the first serving executive council. Although Dr. Rantz was elected as the first president, he nominated Dr. Finland, instead, for the position. Thus, Maxwell Finland stood as president, Edward Kass as secretary and treasurer, and Edward C. Curnen, MD, Mark H. Lepper, MD, Samuel P. Martin, MD, David E. Rogers, MD, Monroe J. Romansky, MD, and Alex J. Steigman, MD, as the first councilors.
The Infectious Diseases Society of America was so-named with the intent of having membership open to all of the Americas and not limiting the Society to the United States.
Today, IDSA is no longer a small, elite group, but a large and growing Society whose 12,000-plus members represent the diversity and vibrancy of the field. IDSA members include practicing clinicians who provide direct patient care, scientists and researchers in the academic setting, public health officials, hospital epidemiologists, and ID specialists working in many other settings.
IDSA members work across the United States and in nearly 100 other countries on six different continents around the world.