April 14, 2022
As AABB president E. Eric Muirhead, MD, declared in his 1957 year-end report, “We can consider the main formative years as over, and major productive years ahead.” Indeed, AABB continued to evolve — growing and strengthening as a major factor in the health-care arena.
For the Times, They Are a-Changin’
Historically, the 1960s stand in stark contrast to the preceding decade. Instead of conservatism, standardization and conformity, the years were marked by informality, change and broadened horizons. The cultural scene exploded with new concepts in music, clothing, civil rights, drug use, military service, sexuality and schooling, among other aspects. Geopolitically, the United States and the Soviet Union emerged as confrontational superpowers, with struggles expanding to all areas of the globe. At home, protests sometimes erupted into violence. Headlines included reports about casualties in Vietnam and assassinations. Yet the decade ended on a high note, with a moon landing and a view from space of the earth as one “blue marble.”
Medicine and health care made great advances in the 1960s — vaccines, soft contact lenses, home kidney dialysis equipment, breast implants, oral contraceptives, cryosurgery, increased organ transplants and limb reattachments, to name just a few. Many “wonder drugs” were developed that alleviated or cured various ailments; however, other drugs were revealed to have side effects that caused cancer, birth defects, anemia and blindness. Awareness was growing that tobacco use and industrial pollutants were serious health hazards.
Increasing Strength and Stature
Instead of the upheaval that marked much of the 1960s, AABB continued steadily building on its earlier progress and making great strides. Combined individual and institutional membership grew from 2,800 in 1960 to 4,475 by 1968. This growth enabled not only an increase in strength and stature for the organization, but also the opportunity to further develop programs and benefits for the blood transfusion community.
For example, the expansion and restructuring of the AABB Clearinghouse program (now, National Blood Exchange) under AABB ownership made possible uniform policies and fees, elimination of conflicting purposes and more efficient operations than had been available.
Educational efforts also strengthened — including enhancements to the Annual Meeting, refinements to the criteria for certification of blood bank technologists and implementation of popular regional workshops on blood component therapy. Education of assessors developed in tandem with the increasingly robust accreditation program.
Then and Now
Although initially a U.S.-centric organization, it was not long before the AABB community included blood bankers from other nations. Eager to learn, international attendees came to the AABB Annual Meetings, as they do today. One participant, Professor Jean Dausset, Centre National de Transfusion Sanguine (Paris), wrote to AABB in 1960 that he found:
Interest in education was reciprocal. For example, immediately following the 1960 Annual Meeting in San Francisco, 57 participants hopped on a plane for the Eighth Congress of the International Society of Blood Transfusion, held in Tokyo.
Another similarity between then and now is the concern about infectious diseases. Of course, today’s worries are not limited to malaria and hepatitis, which dominated in the 1960s. Important advances were already being made in those earlier times, most recently acknowledged by the Nobel Prize awarded for early work on hepatitis. In contrast, the pace of research, discovery and treatment has increased along with the discovery of new AND relevant infectious pathogens.
Publishing has also remained a focus of the association. As AABB president E.R. Jennings, MD, noted in his 1960 year-end report, “. . .we are in the publications business in a big way.” He identified three significant events: transition of the monthly member communiqué from one managed by a single dedicated volunteer at the helm to one with increasing staff responsibilities, updating of the popular Technical Methods and Procedures of the AABB and the Standards for a Blood Transfusion Service, and the debut of TRANSFUSION, the AABB journal, in 1961.
Today, AABB resources include 69 print publications and over 100 digital publications. The program has evolved to include works developed by individuals, in addition to standing committees. Many titles have continued from earlier times with editions periodically updated. Still others are created quickly to address a pressing, but transient, need for information. Through the decades, AABB resources have become “ambassadors” to a growing readership. No doubt there is at least one on your bookshelf now!
The Sixties at a Glance
It was a different time and yet… in some ways it wasn’t. Readers can decide for themselves what still resonates today.