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ASHI is an international society of professionals dedicated to advancing the science, education, and application of immunogenetics and transplant immunology.
A Brief History
The study of human histocompatibility has grown from a few modest research efforts studying human genetics in the 1950s to a broadly based science merging immunology and genetics, including transplantation of organs and tissues, susceptibility to disease, regulation of immune responsiveness, and molecular characterization of the unique supergene HLA.
The beginnings of ASHI came in 1972, in the early days of HLA typing for kidney transplantation, when Don Cross, Glenn Rodey, and Ken Sell had the idea of organizing clinically oriented HLA laboratories for informal collaborative serum procurement and exchange programs. At that time, most laboratories trying to type for kidney transplants in the United States had no means of obtaining or dispensing information about HLA reagents.
At the 1972 NIH Tray Users meeting, the first HLA organization CRAB (Cooperative Regions Against Bureaucracy) was established by Don Cross, Glenn Rodey, Wilma Bias, Bill Braun, Bill Cannady, June Shaw, and Anne Heath. Its purpose was the exchange of sera and scientific knowledge. Although CRAB was limited to the eastern seaboard, it sparked interest in the organization of a national society. In a letter from Dr. Bill Miller to CRAB:
“I feel quite strongly that the time has come for a national organization ... The American Association of Blood Banks Committee on Histocompatibility Testing is inactive and narrowly constructed. The American Society of Nephrologists is unlikely to deal with such a specialized discipline in a satisfactory manner. NIAID assumed early leadership of the typing field, but all of us feel that technology and administrative problems have progressed to a point where their objectives are too narrow for our needs ... We still must form ad hoc committees for administrative matters, beg for serum where we can, and look elsewhere for a forum for scientific presentations. I would hope that CRAB could assume leadership in establishing a national or international organization devoted to the scientific, technical, and administrative aspects of histocompatibility testing ... I hope you will distribute this to the CRAB membership through your newsletter, and that they can lay the groundwork for the proposed organization during the coming months.”
At the next NIH Tray Users meeting in 1974, a steering committee was formed of Wilma Bias, Angenieta Biegel, Bill Braun, Bernie Carpenter, Don Cross, Olga Jonasson, Bill Miller, Herb Perkins, Glenn Rodey, June Shaw, and Frances Ward. Their efforts led to the formal incorporation on May 15, 1974, of the American Association of Clinical Histocompatibility Testing (later changed to American Association for Clinical Histocompatibility Testing) and the first meeting in Birmingham, Alabama on April 29, 1975.
Within four years, the organization included over 600 members, was holding yearly scientific meetings, and had established strong leadership in education, laboratory standards, and national policy on histocompatibility testing. In recognition of the increasing interest in products of the HLA gene complex in various biologic functions, as well as histocompatibility, the name of the organization was officially changed in 1984 to the American Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics (ASHI).
Today, ASHI continues its pivotal role in education and exchange of scientific knowledge. With over 1,000 members from more than 33 countries, members include immunologists, geneticists, molecular biologists, transplant physicians and surgeons, pathologists, and technologists. The vast majority of these individuals are active in transplantation medicine. ASHI is a member of the United Network for Organ Sharing and has liaisons with several other scientific and medical organizations including the College of American Pathologists, American Association of Blood Banks, American Association of Tissue Banks, American Society of Human Genetics, the National Marrow Donor Program, American Board of Transplant Coordinators, North American Transplant Coordinators Organization, American Society of Transplant Physicians, American Society of Transplant Surgeons, and the American Board of Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics. Perhaps most significantly, it remains an intensely interactive and progressive group of workers, with, as Glenn Rodey stated in 1983, “the ultimate commitment to understanding human diseases through sound immunogenetic research and its application to human care.”
In 1999, ASHI celebrated the 25th Anniversary of its incorporation. Festivities were held at the annual meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. A commemorative book, “ASHI, The First 25 Years, 1974-1999” was published for the occasion. It covers the history of each of the various programs and publications that the society offers, as well as the history of HLA and the evolution of the society from the perspective of its presidents.