American Psychosomatic Society (1)

In 1876, Josiah Macy, Jr, scion of a wealthy Nantucket mercantile family, died of yellow fever at age 38, when his daughter Kate was only 13.  In 1930, at age 67, she established a charitable foundation in his name.  During the next 15 years until her death, she donated the equivalent of $20 million annually (in today’s dollars), much of it during the Depression.

One of the early interests of the Josiah Macy Foundation was psychosomatic medicine.  They sponsored a bibliography of the literature by the New York Academy of Medicine, published in 1935 under the title “Emotions and Bodily Changes.”  This success led the foundation to support publication of the journal “Psychosomatic Medicine” beginning in 1939, edited by Dr. Helen Dunbar.  The 4’11” (150 cm) tall Dr Dunbar was age 37 at that time with a PhD in Philosophy from Columbia, her MD from Yale, a BD (Bachelor of Divinity) from Union Theological Seminary and a BA from Bryn Mawr.

A few years later, Dr Dunbar was one of the organizers of the American Society for Research in Psychosomatic Problems which held its first scientific meeting in 1943.  Five years later the name was changed to its current form.  The mission of the American Psychosomatic Society is to “promote and advance the scientific understanding and multidisciplinary integration of biological, psychological, behavioral and social factors in human health and disease, and to foster the dissemination and application of this understanding in education and health care.”

Tomorrow the APS begins its 68th annual meeting in my home town of Portland, Oregon.  I will be giving a talk on interview techniques for patients with medically unexplained symptoms on Thursday and blogging about interesting presentations I see there.