The Founding of an Organization: The First 33 Years of the International Society for Dermatologic Surgery

January 2013 | Volume 12 | Issue 1 | Editorials | 20 | Copyright © January 2013

Henry W. Randle MD PhDa, Perry Robins MDb, and C. William Hanke MD MPH FACPc

aDepartment of Dermatology, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, FL bProfessor Emeritus, Department of Dermatology, New York University Medical Center, New York, NY cLaser and Skin Surgery Center of Indiana, Carmel, IN

“An International Dermatologic Organization that would support basic education, teaching, research, and an exchange of ideas in dermatologic surgery.”
In 1978, Perry Robins MD and 38 dermatologists mostly from Portugal, Spain, and Germany met in Marrakech, Morocco, to form a new society, the International Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ISDS). The purpose was to bring together dermatologic surgeons from around the world to improve scholarship and training in dermatologic surgery. This would be a worldwide organization of dermatologic surgeons who would meet and exchange information, present new ideas in the development and perfection of techniques in dermatologic surgery, and promote, standardize, and upgrade training programs in dermatologic surgery. There was hope that the ISDS would engender comradery among dermatologic surgeons worldwide and stimulate the formation of national societies. This would promote and spread the word of dermatologic surgery around the world by providing a forum for the exchange of ideas of methodology for dermatologic surgery and related sciences and by providing for continued education in the field.
The early dermatologic surgeons were largely self-taught, but it was natural for dermatologists to perform dermatologic surgery once they received proper training, because they had knowledge of the diseases anatomy, physiology, and pathology of the skin. This proper training could be accomplished by including dermatologic surgery in the basic training in each dermatology residency. In the 1970s, dermatology residents received minimal training in dermatologic surgery. This began to change with the formation of the American College of Chemosurgery in 1967 (now known as the American College of Mohs Surgery), when 23 attendees joined Frederic Mohs MD at its first meeting in Chicago. The importance of this was highlighted by a statement from the late Thomas Fitzpatrick MD, former chairman of the Department of Dermatology at Harvard Medical School. In 1996, he stated before the American Academy of Dermatology in Washington, DC, that Mohs micrographic surgery (MMS) had paved the way for dermatologists to perform cutaneous surgery. In 1970, 29 dermatologists attending the American Academy of Dermatology annual meeting in Chicago founded the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. In 1975, Dr. Robins introduced the Journal of Dermatologic Surgery, which would emphasize cutaneous surgery. The stage was set to expand internationally. Dermatologists were instrumental in the development of dissemination of surgical techniques for treating skin conditions with procedures that included MMS, dermabrasion, laser surgery, tumescent liposuction, hair transplantation, soft tissue augmentation, and botulinum toxin.
There was tremendous enthusiasm to develop the society. Antonio Picoto MD and Dr. Robins wrote the first ISDS constitution on a bus traveling from Marrakech to Fez. Dr. Picoto hosted the first official meeting of the ISDS in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1979, which had approximately 400 attendees. It was the first international congress solely dedicated to dermatologic surgery. By the second meeting, which was held in Paris in 1980, the membership had grown to around 700. Dr. Robins served as the first president of the society, and in his presidential address at the second meeting of the ISDS, he stated, “The road ahead of us is not easy, but we have established our goal—and we know where we are going.” There was no meeting in 1982 because of a conflict with the International Congress of Dermatology meeting in Tokyo. By the fourth ISDS meeting, which was held in Granada, Spain, in October 1983, there were 14 symposia and work sessions covering all areas of dermatologic surgery, including fundamental techniques, graphs and flaps, dermabrasion, MMS, cryosurgery, surgery of the nails, hair transplants, tattoo removal, electrosurgery, and laser surgery. Subjects ranged from the treatment of malignant melanoma to collagen implantation. Within 5 years, the ISDS grew from 250 members to 1,200.
The annual meetings were comprised of scientific programs, special receptions, and various cultural events from the host country. The annual meetings were held annually in the fall. In addition to the scientific portion of the program, members would visit hospitals, physician offices, and clinics. There were social programs to promote the exchange of ideas in a more relaxed setting. These were held at museums, castles, city halls, private homes, arboretums, mansions, and palaces. True fellowship and affection developed among physicians from as many as 62 countries and their spouses. In addition to the annual fall meeting, it was decided that a spring meeting could be added to expand the scope of the organization to Asia. The first such meeting was held in the Philippines in March 2008.
New York City was the initial headquarters for the ISDS from 1978 until 2003, when it was transferred to Darmstadt, Germany. Membership benefits included a complimentary subscription to the Journal of Dermatologic Surgery, access to a surgical video library, a quarterly newsletter, and a complimentary membership directory. In addition, there was eligibility for training scholarships, including the Robins ISDS scholarship and the Lawrence Field international traveling chair. Three new executive positions were established, which included 2 executive directors, C. William