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Rock Sleyster (1879-1942)
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Rock Sleyster Scholarship | Memorial | Encyclopedia | Familytree us1
Rock Sleyster, M.D., Psychiatry’s First President of
Am J Psychiatry 161:436, March 2004
Of the 158 presidents of the American Medical Association (AMA) to date, there has been only one who was a psychiatrist. Rock Sleyster, M.D., was installed as 93rd president of the AMA on May 16, 1939. At that time, Dr. Sleyster was medical director of the Milwaukee Sanitarium in Wisconsin, a post he held from 1919 until his death in 1942.
Dr. Sleyster was active in organized medicine early in his career and held the offices of president of the Wisconsin State Medical Society, editor of the Wisconsin Medical Journal, AMA delegate, vice-speaker of the AMA House of Delegates, chairman of the AMA Board of Trustees, and then president of the AMA, beginning in 1939.
His inaugural address was titled "The Mind of Man and His Security" and vividly pointed out the problems — and the promise — of medicine and psychiatry in that era: 47% of the hospital beds in America were filled with persons with mental diseases, general paresis was just being brought under control, and the treatment of dementia praecox was beginning to see the promise of insulin and metrazol shock therapy (1).
Beyond those clinical matters, Dr. Sleyster was concerned about the maintenance of individual initiative versus governmental protections, musing that while the loss of character and individual initiative may not be pathological in the sense that mental defects are pathological, such loss of individual responsibility was a menace not only to the individual but to the nation and mankind as well. Dr. Sleyster had an intense interest in anthropology and published works in that area. He collected rare medical books dating back to 1550, including some of the earliest classic first editions in psychiatry.
His spouse, Clara, established a memorial fund in his honor through the AMA Foundation, and each year approximately 20 scholarships of $2,500 each are awarded to senior medical students based on demonstrated interest in psychiatry, scholarship, and financial need. These individuals are then designated Rock Sleyster Scholars for a 1-year period. In that sense, Dr. Sleyster’s memory and efforts live
Med Student Fellowships & Other Awards
Sponsoring Agency:American Medical Assocation
Description:This fund provides scholarships to be awarded to U.S. citizens enrolled in accredited American or Canadian medical schools. Scholarships are given annually to assist needy and deserving students studying medicine who aspire to specialize in psychiatry. All nominees must be rising seniors. The award is $2500 Deadline: May 1.
Rock Sleyster Memorial Scholarship
Rock Sleyster Memorial Scholarship
Southern Illinois University School of Medicine may nominate one student annually for this scholarship award.
Qualifications or Criteria for Applying:
Application Deadline: Contact the Director of Financial Aid before May 1st at firstname.lastname@example.org
To request further information contact:
Rock Sleyster Memorial
From the Magazine | Medicine
Posted Monday, Sep. 26, 1938
In Washington last July, Josephine Roche, former head of Federal health activities, told members of a National Health Conference that the Government proposed to embark on a ten-year public health program, to appropriate $850,000,000 annually for the job (TIME, Aug. 1). Lay delegates heartily approved, but officials of the American Medical Association bitterly objected to "centralization of control of medical service by any State agency."
Last week 100 members of the House of Delegates, supreme A. M. A. body, met in extraordinary session with 400 officials of local medical organizations in the Red Lacquer Room of Chicago's Palmer House. Purpose: consideration of the proposed Federal health program. Dr. Harrison H. Shoulders of Nashville, Tenn., speaker of the House, Dr. Irvin Abell of Louisville, Ky., president of the Association, and Dr. Rock Sleyster of Wauwatosa, Wis., president-elect, exhorted the delegates. All three opposed "political control," reiterated the A. M. A.'s desire to "benefit the people." Said President Abell, referring to the National Health Conference: "Without calling the organized medical profession . . . into conference, a vast plan affecting health and medical care has been proposed to the people."
Speaker Shoulders read the recommendations of the National Health Conference, assigned a committee of the House to consider each proposal separately. 'The committee adjourned for two days. When they reappeared they brought, contrary to expectations, no plan for war with the Administration, but a conciliatory program, in substantial agreement with that of the National Health Conference. Proposals: 1) The health of impoverished persons should be protected by use of Federal and State funds when necessary; 2) A Department of Health should be established with 'a physician as Cabinet member; 3) Public health, maternal and child welfare service should be expanded; 4) Better use should be made of existing hospital facilities and new buildings should be constructed only where necessary; 5) Compulsory health insurance is undesirable, would lead to "political control and manipulation," but hospital service insurance and cash indemnity insurance policies for patients suffering from prolonged illnesses are highly desirable, as is compensation of workers for loss of wages during illness. Local medical societies should cooperate with the Federal Government, organize local community service agencies for taking care of the sick with Federal funds.
Smooth as clockwork, with no argument, the House unanimously approved the proposals. Speaker Sleyster then ap pointed a committee of seven to confer with Federal authorities. After two swift days of unprecedented action the meeting adjourned, amid cries of "progressive," "almost revolutionary." Said Editor Morris Fishbein, tremendously delighted with the finesse and harmony of A. M. A. dele gates: "Many people will be surprised at the progressive action of the delegates. Of course I am not. I helped to work it out."
From the Sep. 26, 1938 issue of TIME magazine
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