History of the AAP

Founding & Growth Through the Years

In 1967, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) was starting a new group called the Association of Academic Societies (later renamed the Council of Academic Societies). For a professional society to qualify for membership to this new group, the majority of its members had to be academicians. The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AAPM&R) determined that they would not qualify, so Ernest W. Johnson, MD took to finding a way to keep physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R - also known as physiatry) in the AAMC.

Dr. Johnson "wrote to 20 program directors about the need to develop an organization of teachers and researchers in physical medicine and rehabilitation," he explains in his 1988 Editorial in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. "We met around a table at the annual meeting of the Academy. Our consensus suggested a membership of full-time academic physiatrists of assistant professor or above. Limiting it to just heads of programs seemed too restrictive to our growth. Almost spontaneously from the group came the name - unanimously accepted - Association of Academic Physiatrists."

William Erdman, MD, Chair of the Department of PM&R at the University of Pennsylvania was elected as the AAP's first President. The initial requirements for membership were that you had to be nominated by a department or division head, submit a CV, certified as eligible by the AAP's Membership Committee, then elected by 3/4 of the AAP's members present at the Annual Meeting. The annual dues were $25 the first year and $15 each subsequent year.

The first constitution was created and the Association of Academic Physiatrists' objectives were as follows:

  1. To recommend methods of undergraduate and graduate teaching of the art and science of physical medicine and rehabilitation.
  2. To promote an interchange of ideas among its members relating to improved academic programs in this medical specialty.
  3. To provide counsel to any medical school for organization of an academic program in physical medicine and rehabilitation.
  4. To encourage and present educational seminars for residents in physical medicine and rehabilitation.
  5. To disseminate information to undergraduate and graduate medical students relating to physical medicine and rehabilitation emphasizing recruitment.
  6. To become the representative specialty group to the Council on Academic Societies, Association of American Medical Colleges.
  7. To represent the academic community of physical medicine and rehabilitation on the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
  8. To cooperate with the American Academic of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, the Commission on Education in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and the Section on Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, American Medical Association.

Initially, AAP members met twice a year. The first was a Fall meeting at a medical school in the same city as the AAPM&R/ ACRM meeting; the second was a Spring meeting held at a medical school. The original standing committees were Membership, Scientific Program, Nominating, By-Laws and Finance.

The original seal of the AAP, a Greek inscription written by Nicholas Checkles, MD, served as the AAP's logo until 1985.

In 1970, the AAP published its first issue of its newsletter, now called Physiatry Forward. At that time, the AAP had 64 active members from a potential of 171.

In 1972, the AAP's bylaws were amended to permit Canadian members. Our first Canadian members were Sidney Dinsdale, Jose Jimenez and Sikhar Bannerjee. The AAP was also listed in JAMA that same year as one of the "Organizations of Medical Interest."

In 1987, the AAP launched its medical journal - the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. This came after two years of negotiation to affiliate with the existing American Journal of Physical Medicine.

From 1968 to 1992, the AAP grew to more than 1,000 members. Since the early days, the AAP has launched new programs to support education, research and leadership development. It has also now grown to a membership of more than 1,800 members in 24 countries. Stay connected to see how we continue to grow with the specialty!

AAP Past Presidents

2017-2019     John Chae, MD, ME
2015-2017     Gerard Francisco, MD
2013-2015     Kathryn Stolp, MD
2011-2013     Michael Boninger, MD
2009-2011     Kristjan Ragnarsson, MD
2007-2009     John King, MD
2005-2007     John Whyte, MD, PhD
2003-2005     Robert Rondinelli, MD, PhD
2001-2003     Gary Clark, MD, CPE, MMM
1999-2001     Barry Smith, MD
1996-1999     Nicolas Walsh, MD
1995-1996     Robert Meier, III, MD
1993-1995     Bruce Gans, MD
1991-1993     Joel DeLisa, MD, MS
1989-1991     Randall Braddom, MD, MS
1987-1989     Paul Kaplan, MD
1985-1987     John Melvin, MD
1983-1985     Martin Grabois, MD
1981-1983     Paul Corcoran, MD
1979-1981     George Kraft, MD
1977-1979     Ernest W. Johnson, MD
1975-1977     Justus Lehmann, MD
1973-1975     John Ditunno, Jr., MD
1972-1973     Joseph Goodgold, MD
1971-1972     Nadene Coyne, MD
1970-1971     Murray Freed, MD
1969-1970     Mieczyslaw Peszcynski, MD
1968-1969     Henry Betts, MD
1967-1968     William Erdman, MD