A Brief History of the American Radium Society

We should recognize and appreciate the shared connections between the ACR and this unique society.a brief history

Since the founding of the ACR Board of Chancellors, the American Radium Society (ARS) has featured a representative among its ranks. Nevertheless, many ACR members may not understand what the ARS does or what it stands for.

To appreciate the rich history of radiology, it's important to understand the history of the ARS and its impact on oncology.

In 1916, the global oncology landscape was understandably different from today. At Memorial Hospital of New York, James Ewing, MD, had recruited the noted surgeon Henry Harrington Janeway, MD, to lead a new department of cancer surgery and radiation therapy. During the June meeting of the American Medical Association, a group of physicians with a common interest in the use of radium met to discuss the formation of a society. On October 26, the American Radium Society was organized by 19 inaugural members at a meeting in the Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia. The occasion marked the society's first annual meeting. Since them, the society has met each year (except during 1943-1945 due to World War II1, making the 2013 meeting later this month the 95th of its kind.

The Society's original mission was to further "the scientific study of radium in relation to its physical properties and therapeutic applications." This distinguished it from the American Roentgen Ray Society, which had been organized in 1900. In 1950, the mission was modified to include "the treatment of neoplastic and allied diseases and the study and application of ionizing radiation" Subsequent revisions have further ensured a multidisciplinary focus. To this end, presidents of the society have included notable representatives from all cancer-related specialties as the field of oncology evolved throughout the 20th century. These include Henry K. Pancoast, MD, Hayes E. Martin, MD, Edith H. Quimby, Gilbert H. Fletcher, MD, Richard H. Jesse, MD, Alfred S. Ketcham, MD, and Felix N. Rutledge, MD. The current president is Thomas A. Buchholz, MD, FACR, of MD Anderson Cancer Center, a radiation oncologist; the president-elect is Elin R. Sigurdson, MD, PhD, a surgical oncologist from Fox Chase Cancer Center. The society's executive director is Jacyln Weinstein.

To appreciate the rich history of radiology, it’s important to understand the history of the ARS and its impact on oncology.

Janeway died in 1921. Twelve years later, the first Janeway Lecture was delivered by Ewing at the ARS annual meeting. The first Janeway medal was struck and presented in 1937.2 Notable Janeway lecturers have included Gioacchino Failla (1939), Sir Stanford Cade (1948), Henry S. Kaplan, MD (1977), Alfred G. Knudson Jr., MD, PhD (1990), and Larry Einhorn, MD (2011). Mary K. Gospodarowicz, MD, will present the Janeway lecture this month in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Seven years after the founding of the ARS, at the 1923 AMA meeting, 21 radiologists met to form the ACR with an ARS representative. I am privileged to occupy that position currently. Further, in 1934, representatives of ARS, ARRS, ACR, and the RSNA incorporated the American Board of Radiology. The six ABR trustees in radiation oncology are provided, three each, by ARS and the American Society for Radiation Oncology.

In the 21st century, oncology is far more fragmented than a century ago. The global penetration of chemotherapy, vast technological advances in radiation delivery, and increasing genomic personalization of therapy stretches the ability of any group to adequately represent the entire spectrum of cancer professionals. After nearly a century, ARS continues to provide a multidisciplinary platform that promotes the study of cancer in all of its aspects, encourages liaison among the various medical specialists and allied scientists concerned with the treatment of cancer, and continues scientific study of the treatment of the cancer patient through its annual meeting and educational offerings.

johnstone headshotBy Peter A.S. Johnstone, MD, FACR, American Radium Society Representative

1. Wilson JF. “An Historical Perspective: American Radium Society, 1916-1995: Years of Distinction.” American Journal of Clinical Oncology 1997;20:530–35.
2. Del Rogato JA. “The Janeway Medal and Its Allegory.” American Journal of Roentgenology, Radium Therapy and Nuclear Medicine 1970;108:429–30.

Share this content

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn