Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, USA.
Address correspondence to: Donald W. Seldin, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75390-9030. USA. Phone: (214) 648-3804; Fax: (214) 648-9100.
First published April 1, 2008 - More info
The feeling of congeniality at the Atlantic City meetings of the AAP and the ASCI was reinforced by a variety of social features. The graciousness and extensive public spaces of the meeting’s official hotel, Chalfonte-Haddon Hall — the comfortable lounges, meandering lobby, shielded sun porch — provided ample opportunity for small gatherings, unexpected reunions, and private exchanges. Various rituals reinforced the feelings of festive reunion: the Surf’n Sand Bar, Brighton Punch, the late lobster dinner at Hackney’s (Figure 1) all contributed to a feeling of community and warmth.
A group of diners at Hackney’s Restaurant in Atlantic City, 1959. Left, front to back: Charles G. Spicknall,Marion B. Sulzberger, Morris Ziff, Joseph B. Kirsner, John H. Vaughan, Samuel Martin, and Max Miller. Right, front to back: John Rumball, Frank H. Tyler, Julian M. Ruffin, Arthur Colwell, Donald W. Seldin, Wade Volwiler, Franz J. Inglefinger, and Ivan Duff.
From 1932 until 1976, the societies met only in Atlantic City. It should be remembered that during this interval, regional meetings were few and specialty meetings virtually nonexistent. As a consequence, the finest research was presented here to a relatively small group of academic scholars. Presentation at the Congress Hall on the Steel Pier was the ultimate goal of budding investigators no less than exalted professors. The core of medicine was reasonably accessible to nearly everyone, since high technology, conceptual as well as technical, did not yet dominate the medical disciplines. It was a thrill to present a paper to a select, high-level audience, among whom were many hallowed figures in academic medicine.
The Atlantic City meetings nurtured the finest medical research embraced by a rich climate of academic collegiality. Maybe the science is much better now — more sophisticated, more reductive, with far greater explanatory power. Maybe the central focus on physiologic derangements yielded less profound insight into normal and deranged function than the genetic and molecular biology of today. Maybe the huge teams of investigators, bringing together diverse disciplines, are far more powerful than the more solitary system of the past. Maybe the medical manager is the more appropriate leader than the medical scholar.
But something has been sacrificed. The central core of medicine has become gravely weakened; the warmth of academic life has to some extent been replaced by impersonality and distance. And specialty meetings command the major scientific advances.
It would be foolish not to recognize the tremendous power of modern medical science. Everyone must surely acknowledge the enormous advance that is the product of specialization, technology, and conceptual analysis. But still, the attractiveness of the Atlantic City meetings — the qualities of shared knowledge, common goals, and warm friendships, reinforced by a congenial and familiar environment — constitute profound human values. The new biology may well be our ultimate medical triumph. But it would be nice to imagine how rich life would be if a little of the Boardwalk could be injected into the modern academic world.