Editor’s Note: This post is by Naomi Rendina, AIHP’s Social Media Coordinator. She is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at Case Western Reserve University. She presents her conference report from the biennial International Congress for the History of Pharmacy held last month in Washington, DC.
For the first time in thirty-six years, the International Society for the History of Pharmacy hosted its biennial gathering in the United States. In early September, more than one hundred and fifty pharmacists and historians from twenty-four countries gathered for the 44th International Congress for the History of Pharmacy, cosponsored by the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy (AIHP) and the International Society for the History of Pharmacy (ISHP). The United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), celebrating its 200th anniversary in 2021, generously supported the conference.
The conference theme, “The Pharmacist and Quality Medicines,” focused on the contributions of pharmacists, pharmacopeias, and drug standards in the creation and use of safe and effective medicines. Presentations broadly considered topics related to pharmacy practice, pharmacy education, and pharmacy regulation. Presenters pushed the boundaries of the field, investigating how constructions of race and gender have interacted with the history of pharmacy and pharmacists. Other innovative research directions at the Congress included histories of cannabis, histories of pharmaceutical manufacturing, and a consideration of the proper future role for pharmacopeias and drug standards.
Fifty-six paper presentations were packed into the four days of meetings, along with thirty-three poster presentations, four plenary lectures, two plenary panels, seven scientific tours and numerous receptions. The conference schedule was full but not hectic. Coffee breaks between panels and on-site meals allowed conversations to travel out from conference rooms and into the halls and to dining tables. Throughout the conference, the concurrent panels featured numerous intriguing topics, forcing attendees to make difficult choices about which panels to attend. (Read the full program [.pdf]).
Attendees arriving early had the option of scientific tours on Thursday morning to the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland, or the United States Pharmacopeia laboratories in Rockville, Maryland. I went on the USP tour, venturing north from the comforts of the hotel into the hustle and bustle of the DC metro. USP staff welcomed us and guided the tour group first through the history exhibits. I was excited to see a display related to my own research topic of ergot!
The small but well-curated exhibit room included a history of the development and growth of USP. The tour guide and conversation focused on the 2008 Heparin crisis, when adulterated Heparin preparations were dangerous to use. As the exhibit explained: “Swift and collaborative action between the USP, regulators, and industry” allowed for a revision of preparation methods and drug standards to ensure safety. The tour continued upstairs and peeked at the laboratories where the pharmacists in the group were excited to hear detailed descriptions of the testing processes. USP presented each tour attendees with a beautiful facsimile reprint of the 1820 first edition of the United States Pharmacopeia.
Several other optional, but well attended, scientific tours occurred during and after the Congress. Congress participants had the opportunity for a behind-the-scenes tour of the medical and pharmaceutical collections of the National Museum of American History, a guided tour of the National Library of Medicine and its special collections, and tours of the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum in Alexandria, Virginia.
The Congress officially kicked off with the Opening Ceremonies on Thursday afternoon followed by the General Session Discussion Panel about “The Past, Present, and Future of Pharmacopeias.” Olivier Lafont, Past President of the International Society for the History of Pharmacy chaired the two-part panel. The first part, “History of Pharmacopeias and Drug Standards,” featured presentations about the global origins and development of pharmacopeias by Stefan Wulle (Internet Commissioner for the International Society for the History of Pharmacy), Axel Helmstädter (President of the International Society for the History of Pharmacy) and John P. Swann (Historian at the US Food & Drug Administration).
The second part of the panel considered “The Future of Pharmacopeias.” Ronald T. Piervincenzi (Chief Executive Officer of USP) and Rosemary Gibson (Senior Advisor at the Hastings Center and Perspectives Editor at JAMA Internal Medicine) explained how pharmacopeias are changing as we head into the future. Gibson’s provocative data suggested a shift in the location of pharmaceutical manufacturing and pointed to some potential implications resulting from the inconsistent preparation of medicines. As the audience moved into the opening reception, attendees informally continued the conversation by pondering the safety of their own medications.
Friday began at 9:00 am with a Plenary Lecture by William B. McAllister, the Special Projects Division Chief in the Office of the Historian, US Department of State, who presented “The Mother of All Opiate Crises: The Legacy of East Asian Opium Consumption, 1800-1950, For Today’s World.” Jacalyn Duffin gave the Congress’ second Plenary Lecture in the afternoon about “Canada on Easter Island: The Secret History of a Blockbuster Drug,” drawn from her recent book about a 1964-65 international scientific expedition to Napa Rui (Easter Island). Taken together, these two presentations provided important historical perspectives about the global reach of the international pharmaceutical market.
Podium sessions started thankfully, at the not-too-early hour of 9:45 am. The first panel I attended was about the evolution of managed pharmaceutical care, with presentations by Susan Cantrell (Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy) and Robert P. Navarro (University of Florida College of Pharmacy), Douglas Scheckelhoff (American Society of Health-System Pharmacists), and Benjamin Urick (University of North Carolina School of Pharmacy). The idea of managed pharmacy and pharmaceutical care illustrates the rise of managed health care in the United States, which is often an overlooked is a component of American healthcare. The presentations demonstrated how the parallel fields of the history of medicine and the history of pharmacy can complement one another to enhance the historical narrative.
Unfortunately, no single report (or person) can adequately recount all of the intriguing concurrent podium presentations, which, on Friday, covered topics ranging from “The Foundations of Pharmacy Practice in Puerto Rico, 1512-1898” by Sandra M. Fabregas-Troche (Centro Latino en Bioética y Humanidades) to “The Mass Transformation of Retail Pharmacy and the Development of a Modern Illicit Narcotics Market” by Richard Del Rio (University of Chicago). One of the many highlights of Friday’s program was a panel, partly funded by the Wellcome Trust, about the histories of cannabis with presentations by Jim Mills (University of Strathclyde), David Alan Guba, Jr., (Bard Early College), Emily Dufton (George Washington University), and Michael Couchman (Queen’s University).
Friday evening began with the Ceremonial Meeting of the International Academy for the History of Pharmacy at the historic headquarters building of the American Pharmacists Association on the National Mall. During this meeting, several prestigious awards were presented:
George Urdang Medal (American Institute of the History of Pharmacy) to Gregory Higby;
Edward Kremers Award (American Institute of the History of Pharmacy) to Alain Touwaide;
Antoin Augustin Parmentier Medal (Société D’Histoire de la Pharmacie) to Gregory Higby;
Carmen Francés Medal to Joao Rui Pita. (The Carmen Francés Medal was created in 1998 by María del Carmen Francés Causapé. The Medal is awarded every two years at the meeting of the International Academy of History of Pharmacy.)
Catedra Centenaria University Medal (Complutense University of Madrid) to Joao Rui Pita.
In addition, the International Academy inducted two new members: Marianna Karamanou from Greece and Michael Mönnich from Germany. Gregory Higby capped off the ceremonial meeting with the International Academy Lecture titled, “Five Hundred Days that Shaped the Future of Pharmacy in the United States (1820-21)” about the contemporaneous foundings of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and the United States Pharmacopeia.
Panels and plenaries continued on Saturday. Michael Flannery presented his Plenary Lecture “The Significance of the Civil War for American Pharmacy: Building a Profession, Forging an Industry, 1861-1865,” analyzing how the Civil War transformed the pharmaceutical industry. In the afternoon, AIHP Historical Director, Lucas Richert’s plenary, “Welcome Memories: Sir Henry Wellcome and the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy” recounted the relationship between Henry Wellcome, University of Wisconsin Professor and AIHP founding member Edward Kremers, and the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy.
The final event on Friday was a reception on the beautiful marble terrace of the APhA Building, which afforded spectacular views of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. We were serenaded by a jazz trio that provided entertainment at social events throughout the Congress.
On Saturday afternoon, the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy presented the Robert P. Fischelis Award to George B. Griffenhagen. The Fischelis Award recognize “persons or organizations that have had an important impact on the field of the history of pharmacy or on the well-being of the Institute.” A former executive at APhA and editor of the Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association, Griffenhagen has been a member of AIHP since 1949 and served in numerous leadership capacities, including President and Secretary, from 1956-2010.
During Saturday’s panel presentations, John E. Clark (University of South Florida College of Pharmacy) presented his project, “A Historical Review of African-American Women in Pharmacy from 1868 to 1950.” His meticulous research has unveiled more accurate about African-American female pharmacy graduates, and he shared a sample of information about the women in his study. His research will be an important addition to the history of pharmacy, and I look forward to seeing more of it. He noted that it wasn’t just about who was graduating, but about who was actually working. Who is doing the work is important to remember in all history, and Dr. Clark highlighted an (unfortunately) often overlooked community. Big things are happening in the field!
One of the highlights of the Congress was the Gala banquet on Saturday evening. This banquet was, by far, one of the most fun events I have ever attended at a conference. Attendees cleaned up nicely, and enjoyed good food, good conversation, good music, and good fun. The small tables allowed for conversations with friends—new and old—and witnessed the beginnings of many new collaborations.
The Congress continued on Sunday morning with the final panel presentations, which again covered an interesting array of topics. Retired Public Health Service Historian John Parascandola, for example, talked about “David Macht, Phytopharmacology, Religion and the Menotoxin,” and Ursula Hirter-Trüb discussed, “Die Dame aus der Barfüsser-Kirche – wie ein transdiziplinäres, wissenschaftliches Projekt in Basel einer namenlosen Mumie Leben einhaucht.”
At Sunday’s Closing Ceremonies, the International Society for the History of Pharmacy announced the winners of the 44th International Congress for the History of Pharmacy Poster competition:
1st Place: Gregory Bond (American Institute of the History of Pharmacy and University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy): “’I Could Feel that My Presence There was Looked Upon as an Intrusion’: African-American Students at Predominantly White Schools and Colleges of Pharmacy, 1842-1925″;
2nd Place: Florian Eidam-Weber (Department of Pharmaceutical Biology, GoetheUniversity, Frankfurt am Main, Germany) and Axel Helmstädter (Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Goethe-University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany): “Historical Research from the British Colonies: A Grass from Africa as a Repellent”;
3rd Place: Anita Magowska (Poznan University of Medical Sciences, Poland): “Quality Medicines as the Challenge for Polish Pharmacists during the Second World War”.
The feature of the Closing Ceremonies was a video presentation by the organizers of the 45th International Congress for the History of Pharmacy to be held in Milan, Italy, in 2021.
We hope to see everyone there!
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