The Beginning: the Australasian Society for Clinical and Experimental Pharmacologists (ASCEP)

There was a recognition in the mid-1960s that it was time for Pharmacology to have a more identifiable and exclusive image than it had hitherto enjoyed. Up to this time, there were almost no separate academic departments of Pharmacology in Australia and Pharmacology was still seen by many as a sub discipline of Physiology. To this end, a small group, known as the Steering Committee, met formally in November 1966 to discuss the formation of a society that would have as its primary focus clinical and experimental pharmacology. The Steering Committee consisted of the following: from academia, Professors Garth McQueen (Dunedin) and Robert Whelan (Adelaide), and from the pharmaceutical industry, Drs Kevin Higgins, Ralph Howard, Bernard Lake and Neville Percy. This group must clearly have been very active since within 6 months about 120 people in Australasia expressed an interest in such a society being founded. The Interim Council (the members of the Steering Committee) met in June 1967 and specified the format of the Society’s first scientific meeting and annual general meeting. This took place at the Melbourne University Pharmacology Department in November of the same year. The first Council was elected at this meeting and consisted of Professor Robert Whelan (President), Professor Garth McQueen (President-elect), Dr Bernard Lake (Registrar – now renamed Secretary), Professor Michael Rand (Assistant Registrar), Dr Kevin Higgins (Treasurer) and Dr Neville Percy (Assistant Treasurer). The role of these main office bearers has remained unchanged in the last 40 years.

The Memorandum and Articles of Association (Constitution) were formally accepted by the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department in March 1968 and the Society was now a registered entity. At this time, there were 192 members from all Australian States, New Zealand and New Guinea. Members were welcomed, not only from traditional Pharmacology but also from related disciplines, with the sole proviso that they should be interested in some aspect of Pharmacology, since the first Council recognised that people who called themselves Pharmacologists often came from disparate disciplines.

Some of the main objectives of ASCEP enunciated in the Memorandum and Articles of Association were as follows: to promote and advance the study and application of Pharmacology and Toxicology in all its aspects; to promote, arrange and conduct meetings and related activities; to publish and print such lectures and proceedings of such meetings; to cultivate and maintain the highest principles of practice and ethics in persons engaged in the sciences of Pharmacology, Toxicology and ancillary sciences; to have a role in advising governments on maintaining optimum standards of drug efficacy and safety and possibly other roles in advising on legislative aspects of drug use. Whilst the scope of Pharmacology in the broader sense has undoubtedly increased in the last 40 years, the original objectives remain essentially unchanged and are still relevant in the 21st century. Read more…

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