Early on, Bunnell insisted that handling the complete care of the upper extremity required a multidisciplinary approach. At its founding and since, the ASSH has welcomed and admitted for membership orthopaedic, plastic and general surgeons. However, over the years, its membership has been predominantly composed of orthopaedic surgeons.
ASSH remained a small society for 25 years. Except for the founding members and the 22 members admitted in 1948, no more than 11 members were admitted in any year. However, the interest in hand surgery was growing rapidly and fellowships based mostly on a preceptor model further encouraged this interest. By the late 1960's, many well-qualified surgeons were clamoring for admission.
Two things happened in response. In 1970, the American Association for Hand Surgery (AAHS) was established, predominated by plastic surgeons. Second, ASSH began to admit more members. In 1971, 41 new members were admitted and this number has continued to grow over the years.
ASSH members have always been keenly interested in educating physicians at all levels of expertise about the care and treatment of hand problems. Starting in the late 60's and early 70's, seminars were frequently given throughout the United States. Because JBJS did not have space to publish the large number of written and presented papers, the ASSH found the need for a new avenue for publication. During his presidency (1975-1976), Adrian E. Flatt, MD and the ASSH Council, after considerable discussion, founded the Journal of Hand Surgery. Dr. Boyes was named its first editor.
The logistics of meeting in conjunction with the AAOS became strained as other organizations developed similar relationship with the AAOS and the numbers of persons attending the meetings grew. ASSH leadership decided in the mid 1980's that ASSH had reached a stand-alone status. The last meeting to be held in conjunction with the AAOS was in New Orleans in February 1986. The time of the ASSH Annual Meeting was then changed to the early fall and the first solo meeting was held in San Antonio, TX in September 1987. Meeting attendance remained steady and even grew.
Also in the year 1987, the American Foundation for Surgery of the Hand
(AFSH) was founded. This 501(c) 3 organization (a federal tax designation) allows for the collection of funds with a tax deduction to the donor. Since its inception, AFSH has granted over $2.4 million in hand-related research and education.
Because of the tri-specialty nature of hand surgery, there developed a perceived need for a common credential to establish the specialty of hand surgery. This effort was spearheaded by George E. Omer, MD, an orthopaedist and ASSH president in 1978-79. By using a great deal of persuasive diplomacy with the American Board of Surgery
, American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery,
and American Board of Plastic Surgery,
Dr. Omer established a certificate of added qualification (CAQ) in hand surgery. The first qualifying exam was given in 1989 (there was no grandfathering). The physician’s parent board issues the certificate after the candidate passes the examination and meets certain qualifying criteria. It is good for 10 years. A CAQ -- now called the Subspecialty Certificate in Surgery of the Hand -- is necessary for Active Membership in ASSH.