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In 1962 in Zurich, Switzerland, the society became affiliated to the International Council of Societies of Pathology and was there represented by Professor James Murray of Johannesburg, who was to become the third president of SASP in 1968. In 1966 SASP became affiliated to the International Academy of Pathology and shortly thereafter Professor James Murray was appointed as a vice-president of the Academy and member of its executive committee. Professors Cornelius J Uys, Ronald O C Kaschula and Martin Hale have subsequently held this office in the International Academy.

On the local national scene regular annual congresses have been held and the number and quality of presentations have progressively increased. By inviting and sponsoring selected personalities to participate in our congresses we have fostered contact with overseas experts and their participation in educational activities that enhances the practice of pathology and all forms of laboratory based medicine in our region. Brochures of congress proceedings, together with trade exhibits, have been a feature of the meetings since 1968.

The society avoided being involved in national politics, but has had to represent the profession in organizations such as the Standing Committee on Education, National Laboratory Service Committee, Advisory to SAMDC on the redefining of pathology specialities, duration and format of training for pathologists, medical natural scientists and technologists, as well as for forensic and dental pathology.

The old SASP had a number of distinguished and loveable characters who, in different ways, influenced the practice of laboratory medicine. Among these are: Professor James Thomson of Cape Town who made his congress presentations without photographs but instead made picturesque drawings on a black chalkboard. Professor James Gear, an internationally renowned virologist from Johannesburg, who had diverse insights and knowledge well beyond his speciality. Dr Shirley Siew, also from Johannesburg, although a refugee from Russia, developed an interest and skill in electron microscopy when this was still in its infancy. Professor Francois Retief, a haematologist who moved around South Africa in various work situations but regularly made scientific presentations in Afrikaans and who encouraged the development of scientific terminology for the language. Dr Bob McCully, a veterinary pathologist from USA, with an uncanny sense of humour, who was able to stimulate interest in veterinary pathology that went as far as bilharziasis in the hippopotamus.

Over the years the society was progressively forced to examine itself and its stance in the South African socio-political situation. Much of this was initiated by overseas visitors who were increasingly only willing to come to South Africa if particular conditions pertaining to our situation were met. However, the changes for the society to increasingly reflect the spectrum of the country’s racial and ethnic mix was already occurring in the training and recruiting of pathologists and laboratory scientists into academia and to Society Membership from all ethnic, racial and cultural groups.

During 1986 and 1987 the society made a significant change to its constitution as the constituent disciplines had meanwhile grown to be so large that they had formed their own organizational structures that had to function independently of SASP. Under the leadership of the then presidents, Professors Frans Taljaard (of Stellenbosch) and Anton Heynes (of Bloemfontein), the society became a federation of four independent professional groupings, namely: SA Division of International Academy of Pathology for Anatomical Pathologists; SA Association of Clinical Biochemists for Chemical Pathologists and Biochemists; SA Society for Haematology; SA Society of Medical Microbiology and Virology.

From that time the collective membership of the Federation has grown considerably. During October 1995 in Auckland, New Zealand, FSASP was admitted to membership of the World Association of Societies of Pathology with Professor ROC Kaschula representing South Africa. At that time FSASP was asked to consider being involved in and possibly driving the development of pathology and the broader aspects of laboratory medicine in all developing countries but especially in Africa. Several of our longstanding senior members, including Professors Kaschula, Vermaak, van den Ende and Tiltman, soon became members of the Association of Pathologists from East, Central and Southern Africa and participated in collaborative research, teaching activities and the examination and certification of pathologists in Africa. Since 1990 FSASP has increasingly sponsored and encouraged colleagues from Central and East Africa to participate in local congresses and training courses. The theme for the 1997 congress was appropriately labelled “Outreach into Africa” and portrayed a new direction for the thrust of the Federation’s activities. The South African Division of IAP, together with the British Division, has continued to drive the development of pathology in East and Central Africa. In spite of the will to continue the process our membership became static and briefly fell as a result of severe financial downgrading of academic laboratory medicine. However, during the past three years the recently formed National Health Laboratory Service has taken a more supportive attitude to developing research and training activities for laboratory scientists. It is hoped that the Division will again flourish while also serving as a catalyst to advance all aspects of laboratory medicine on our continent that has not yet hosted an international congress of the IAP.

Ronald OC KASCHULA June 2006