Starting with my first meeting as a nephrology trainee in 1961, to our 2003 annual meeting, ASAIO has been a central theme of my professional life. Before there was an American Society of Nephrology, when the national voluntary renal philanthropy was called “The Nephrosis Foundation,” ASAIO was the academic home for doctors concerned with patient care and uremia. Perforce, there was no other place to go to learn of advances or communicate research accomplishments. Now, as ASAIO prepares its collection of the most significant papers of the past 50 years, it is evident that the story of how medicine came to use artificial kidneys, heart lung machines, mechanical hearts, extracorporeal membrane oxygenators, and tentative artificial livers and pancreases is that of ASAIO itself.
ASAIO’s Transactions and Journal have had two Editors. George E. Schreiner created the characteristic traits of hard science flavored with excitement. Schreiner consistently listened to an inner drumbeat that, like the bank vaults that attracted Willie Sutton’s quest for money, guided our publication to the frontier of what is now called bionics. Over the subsequent years, I watched as nurses followed by clinical nephrologists jumped the ASAIO ship to more conventional societies where meeting and journal content fit usual clinical formats. Solid organ transplant surgeons and physicians arrived and departed ASAIO when they too had other “more traditional” options for presentation and publication of manuscripts. Similar evolutions occurred for ASAIO members focused on insulin pumps, open heart surgery, and cardiac replacement strategies.
What’s left? ASAIO and its allied societies in Japan, Europe, Mexico, and South America continue to attract the original (different) thinker who does not readily fit any easily definable mold. Where else, as an example, would William Dobelle describe his struggle to devise an artificial eye for the blind? Similarly, what other society would encourage Willem J. Kolff to recount his pursuit of an artificial lung when pundits proffer multiple reasons why the device will be unable to function? Will ASAIO survive this decade? My guess is yes, though perhaps in some genetic transformation responsive to the explosive advance of science. There is no softness to my belief that spare parts medicine will prove to be the reality of the 21st century. What is blurry is the extent to which molecular biology and stem cell induction will dominate fabrication of medical devices that replace vital organ systems.
There is something unique about ASAIO and those of us who opt to stay as active members. Perhaps it is the attraction of “living on the edge,” while “pushing the envelope.” Whatever the explanation, with this, my last report as your Editor, I extend warm thanks to those who facilitated the transition of our Journal to a peer reviewed, well regarded, resource. Section Editors, reviewers, and most consistently our members infused life into a concept. Barbara Erler protected me from lapses in supervision while injecting joyful purpose. I am indebted to Barbara for grasping the purpose of and acting with the highest responsibility to ASAIO’s mission.
Most of all, I acknowledge and express gratitude for the marvelous service given by Monica M. Beyer who unerringly directed the process of gaining peer review across international borders while insisting that accepted manuscripts sustain intellectuality and literacy. Monica, in reality, was the Journal interface, conscience, and soul. ASAIO’s Presidents, aided by Karen Burke, our omnipresent wise Executive Director, gave advice when needed without intruding into the freedom that sparks innovative writing.
Your trust has been a source of career fulfillment.
Distinguished Teaching Professor of Medicine