25th Anniversary Newsletter


“I am very happy to see a response of this magnitude as well as see that we are attracting bone marrow transplanters, individuals involved in laboratory programs which support clinical transplant activities, and those involved in cardiac transplantation…I am also very pleased to note that we have several surgeons among our new members.”

Ronald D. Guttmann, M.D., President 1983
American Society of Transplant Physicians (ASTP)

In 1983, the American Society of Transplant Physicians’ (ASTP) President, Dr. Ronald D. Guttmann, penned these words in his Letter From The President, which appeared in the Society’s inaugural newsletter. The words are compelling because they reinforce the principles that led to the formation of ASTP in 1982…a focus on being inclusive and encouraging representation from all disciplines in transplantation. These values remain at AST’s core today.

The Early Years of Transplantation

Ask most people about the events that characterized 1982 and they may mention the anniversary of the implantation of the first artificial heart, the dedication of the Vietnam War Memorial, the death of Leonid Brezhnev, or the premiere of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Ask the original ASTP Board of Directors about 1982 and they will discuss bylaws, Upjohn and the role of the physician in transplantation. This was a pivotal year in the creation of a society that would eventually play a significant role in the field of transplantation.

The idea for a multi-disciplinary transplantation society was generated by a small group of friends who were at that time or had been previously affiliated with the nephrology program at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. Their goal was to broaden the offerings of the surgically oriented transplant groups. The ASTP would provide an alternative for physicians, scientists, and others on the transplant team. In addition, the Society’s reach would extend throughout North America. “This was such an exciting time and I am proud to have been involved with these outstanding people whose spirit and belief that this was absolutely the right thing to do was the reason the ASTP flourished,” said Dr. Guttmann.

According to original Board member and Past President Terry B. Strom, M.D., “As nephrologists, our goal was to expand professional development opportunities in nephrology and transplantation. The ASTP was created to offer leadership positions to members in all transplantation specialties, including, medicine, research and surgery. Furthermore, our members would be encouraged to influence the continuing education and professional development opportunities that were offered through ASTP.”

ASTP Is Official

Lawrence G. Hunsicker, M.D., served as the initial secretary treasurer and was responsible for drawing up the articles of incorporation and preparing the bylaws. ASTP was incorporated in Iowa in1982.

Letters recruiting members were sent to an extensive list of internists and pediatricians who were involved in renal transplantation. Dues were initially $30 and remained at that level for a few years. As 1984 drew to a close, the Society was operating in the red, prompting an increase in dues. “We had to raise dues, we were at the point where I was using my personal funds to avoid financial problems,” recalls Dr. Hunsicker.

ASTP, which by November 1982 had attracted 197 members, was organized to:

  • Promote and encourage education and research with respect to transplantation medicine and immunology.
  • Provide a forum for the exchange of scientific information related to transplantation medicine and immunology; and,
  • Provide for physicians and allied scientists in transplantation medicine and immunology an effective, unified and authoritative voice in dealing with other governmental, professional and private agencies and organizations.

Although the society was founded by physicians, pediatricians and histocompatability scientists with a primary interest in renal transplantation, it also provided a forum where transplantation biology in its broadest sense could be discussed. The Board of Directors determined that the ASTP would undertake a scientific, educational and political role.

Member Profile Circa 1982

Given ASTP’s emphasis on inclusiveness, the composition of this Society would be very different from other societies. In 1982, questionnaires were sent to all members to create a member profile. ASTP received 186 responses; the highlights of the survey are listed below.

  • 67 were directors or co-directors of transplant programs
  • 161 were involved in the medical care of transplant patients
  • 29 ran tissue typing labs
  • 71 are involved in clinical trials
  • 96 were adult nephrologists
  • 54 were pediatric nephrologists
  • 18 were lab types
  • 1 was a surgeon

The First Year

During its first year, ASTP hosted its first annual meeting in December 1982 at the Drake Hotel in Chicago. The program included a business meeting and symposium, titled, “The Optimal Management of the Transplant Patient.” Ken Goodman of The Upjohn Company was influential in the ASTP launch, contributing toward the Society’s first meeting.

Topics for the scientific component of this meeting included: Optimizing Matching and Preparation of the Patient: HLA-DR and Transfusions, Optimizing Imunosupressions: Modes of Action of Cyclosporin and The Problem of the Presensitized Patients: Causes, Avoidance, Management.

The reaction to the meeting and the new Society was positive. In fact, the ASTP doubled attendance at the next scheduled meeting. ASTP’s success, according to Dr. Guttmann, was due to the fact that the Society had always treated transplantation as an interdisciplinary enterprise. “Transplantation is an enormously complicated field that relies on the participation of physicians, surgeons, researchers and others. In order to advance, all who participate on the transplant team must continue the dialogue. Cooperation among transplant professional is what has set ASTP, and now AST, apart from other societies.”

In 25 years, ASTP has grown from a Society of less than 200 with representation from the U.S. and Canada to the AST, a society of more than 2,600 members with an international membership and one of the most respected Society’s in the field.

Editor’s Note: The comments contained in this article were received from the ASTP’s original Board of Directors at press time. This is the first in a series of articles that will be published throughout AST's anniversary year. We encourage anyone with anecdotes or recollections of the early years of ASTP to contact the AST National Office at info@myAST.org to share your stories. These stories may be incorporated into future articles.