A Brief History of the American Academy of Cardiovascular Perfusion

By A. Earl Lawrence and David A. Palanzo

One cannot talk about the beginnings of The Academy without mentioning Thomas G. Wharton. Thomas Wharton was not a perfusionist but a friend of perfusion in the true sense of the word. He worked for Travenol Laboratories for sixteen years starting in 1958. Tom then started his own company, Human Resources, Inc. During this time he served as the first Executive Director of the Journal of Extracorporeal Technology, the Executive Director of the American Society of Extracorporeal Technology (1977) since the organization was given over to full time management from the outstanding volunteer work done by Ed and Audrey Berger. Tom also served as the Executive Director of the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion. In 1978, Tom moved to California accepting the position of Product Manager of tubing packs for William Harvey Research Corporation.Thomas Wharton believed in perfusion as a career and a profession. He also believed in formal education for the perfusionist. In the summer of 1979, Tom handed Earl Lawrence from Birmingham, Alabama, $2000.00 and told him to “go out and start that organization of professional perfusionists that we all need.” That is how this Academy was founded.

Tom was a person that was truly dedicated to perfusion education and the perfusion profession. He understood the needs and desires of the perfusion community. Unfortunately while driving to work that fall, Tom had a heart attack and died. He never witnessed the formation or attended the first meeting of this society he was so instrumental in forming.

Many individuals, not just Tom, had worked hard for many years to try to focus a professional organization toward the single goal of education. The creation of The American Academy of Cardiovascular Perfusion was the culmination of those efforts.

Charlie Reed somewhat plagiarized the Constitution and By-Laws of the AATS and the Society of Anesthesia, with a few modifications, to develop a Constitution that would hold all members accountable to the single purpose of The Academy –


Section 1. The purpose of The Academy shall be to encourage and stimulate investigation and study which will increase the knowledge of cardiovascular perfusion, to correlate and disseminate such knowledge.

Section 2. To attain this purpose, The Academy shall hold at least one scientific meeting every year in which free discussion shall be featured; shall conduct a Journal for the publication of presentations presented at the meeting, and other acceptable articles; and shall undertake such other activities as the Council or The Academy as a whole may decide.

In less than six months in 1979: The Academy was incorporated; established its 24 Charter Members; appointed interim officers and Council; developed sponsorship; established a financial structure; secured a hotel and arrangements for a meeting; secured papers for presentations; developed panel discussions; and very successfully held its’ first meeting at the Royal Orleans Hotel in New Orleans in January, 1980. We also recorded all discussion during the meeting for later transcription and inclusion in The Proceedings. Joanie Vance, a part time secretary, transcribed all of the discussion word by word from the tapes – what an unbelievable effort. The only discussion not published by design was probably one of the very best panel discussions we have ever had – Perfusion Accidents. We swept the hotel for lawyers, locked the doors to the meeting room, and had a fabulously frank discussion about disasters. This set the tone for all future programs, and the ability to deal with any and all topics necessary.

Jeri L. Dobbs, the interim president, was elected president and immediately began planning the next meeting for January 1981 in San Francisco. That meeting was the establishment of the Fireside Chats – yet another new educational forum that was not allowed to be developed previously. It has become one of the real outstanding forums of the Annual Academy Meeting, and receives high praise from everyone that participates. Also in 1981, Jeri Dobbs found a court reporter that would attend the meeting and not only tape the discussion, but also transcribe anything we needed for inclusion in The Academy Proceedings. Richard Adams has become such an integral part of The Academy and its’ commitment to provide free discussion that is available in The Proceedings. Inclusion of discussion was yet another type of forum that was previously deemed impossible, but Dick Adams makes it seem easy for The Academy. The membership was so appreciative of his contributions that they made him an Honorary Member in 1987. Truly deserved.

The Academy has been innovative in its approach to perfusion education. This has resulted in the development of “Fireside Chats” as a very popular part of each of the annual meetings. The Academy has also dared to be controversial in its approach to perfusion education, hosting open discussions on Perfusion Manpower, Accidents and Safety, Legal and Ethical Issues in Perfusion, to name just a few.

In 1983, The Academy established the first perfusion education scholarship program. The Academy awarded over $54,000 during the eleven years of this scholarship program.

In 1986, it was apparent that many perfusionists wanted to be a part of The Academy and what it stands for, but are unable to comply with the requirements of Active Membership. There may be any number of reasons for not being able to commit to such an educational effort. Therefore, the Associate Member category was created. This is a category in which a perfusionist can contribute to perfusion education at their own choice of level of commitment. Associate Members receive discounted registration fees, business meeting participation, annual Perfusion subscription, and all of the other benefits as do Active Members. Associate Members can be involved with all aspects of the program and Academy activities, as they are able and willing to contribute. This is an excellent opportunity for someone to develop interest and commitment to perfusion education. The Associate Membership offers a unique and very much appreciated support of The Academy purpose.

The membership felt that it was important to develop practice standards for perfusion so the Standards of Perfusion Practice, a statement of The Academy, was constructed, edited and adopted in September of 1987. The title was changed to Guidelines of Perfusion Practice with the 2008 revision.

The preamble of the document reads as follows:

The American Academy of Cardiovascular Perfusion (AACP) acknowledges and concurs that the primary responsibility for the care of the patient undergoing procedures involving cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) rests with the Surgeon/Physician-in-charge. The AACP believes that it is the responsibility of the clinical perfusionist to assist the Surgeon/Physician in any way possible in this patient care, and particularly within the defined areas of expertise of the clinical perfusionist, which may include but not be limited to, all perioperative patient services required. These may consist of procedures involving blood sequestration, processing and reinfusion; cardiac assist; and other extracorporeal services deemed necessary by the Surgeon/Physician-in-charge.

 The AACP endorses the following guidelines in the practice and conduct of CPB, and acknowledges the necessity for the membership to participate in the preparation, presentation, and publication of scientific information. The AACP also acknowledges that the development of practice guidelines is an ongoing process due to evolving extracorporeal technology.

In support of perfusion education and the process for recognizing effective perfusion education programs, The Academy adopted a position statement in January, 1993, entitled, “Characteristics of an Effective Perfusion Education Program.” This statement lists the ideal characteristics for an effective program.

In 1994 The Academy began using the Internet as a means of communication, information, and continuing perfusion education.

The development of The Academy PERFSearch© was the first of its kind, perfusion literature data base, developed and maintained by Thomas Ebersole. When it was developed, PERFSearch© was the worlds’ largest and most comprehensive reference database of perfusion related articles available. PERFSearch© had over 11,500 citation reference articles, contained references from over eight hundred (800) journals in more than thirty-three (33) countries. It contained over 1700 references dated before 1966 and had articles from as far back as 1667. It was a full featured, relational database that produced queried output from many search fields dedicated exclusively to perfusion. It was a free service to all members of The Academy.

The development of The Academy PERFClass© programs of education via the Internet in 1997, was the first use of this great new medium for class room presentation and study of perfusion. Jeri Dobbs organized the programs along the lines of college courses and are offered for four semesters each year.

The Academy Virtual Scientific Sessions© were also Internet-based education seminars that allow participation of anyone, anywhere in the world to participate in paper presentation and discussion of the presentation. Unfortunately, it was a little bit ahead of its time.

In 1995, The Academy entered into a unique relationship with the only International Indexed Perfusion Journal – Perfusion. This relationship provides for the international publication of the papers presented at the annual meeting and an annual subscription for all members of The Academy. The Academy will continue to develop and pursue new ideas and ways of helping perfusionist obtain the best in perfusion continuing education at the lowest possible cost to the individual. The innovation for perfusion education demonstrated over the past thirty-two years is just the beginning.

The Academy Journal, The Proceedings of The American Academy, is at least half of The Academy purpose and commitment. We were extremely fortunate to have Mark Kurusz as the editor of this journal during its formative years. Mark served as editor from 1981, Volume 2 through 1993, Volume 14. His contributions were irreplaceable. The Index of the first 14 issues was a monumental effort. Diane Clark and David Palanzo did a terrific job of taking up the torch and continuing the excellence. David is now the editor and is assisted by several important associate editors, and the new format, with publication of the full articles in Perfusion is an enormous challenge that he has conquered. The exposure of the discussion of the presentation is still one of the most valuable parts of the paper, and is one of the reasons discerning authors prefer presenting at The Academy meeting rather than other available forums. In 2009, the discussions of the paper presentations were published along with the manuscripts in Perfusion, so at that point the Proceedings of The American Academy of Cardiovascular Perfusion ceased to be published.

The only duty of the president of The Academy is to serve as the chairman of the program committee. The president is responsible for the program each year, if they so choose. We have been privileged to have the individuals in the profession that are most committed to perfusion education as president of The Academy. The leading edge programs that they have been responsible for over the past twenty years has been a real contribution to the profession. They have always found the most important issues to explore and have developed many new ways of presenting them.

The Academy membership structure is also unique. In most organizations being an active member means that your dues are up-to-date. The ‘Academy Fellow Member’ must continually commit personal support, energy and effort to the purpose of The Academy. A Fellow must contribute to the program at least once every three years, must attend the meeting at least once every three years, and must pay their dues, or they must be removed from Fellow Membership. Over the life of The Academy, there have been as many members that had to be removed for professional delinquency. Not everyone can keep these modest commitments to the profession. The only special thing that Fellow Members receive is the Induction Dinner each year, which they pay for in their registration fees. Not very much reward for all of their efforts to produce the best education program year after year.

Organization control of The Academy lies totally with the Active Membership. The officers and Council must have approval from the membership for all activities that they propose. The majority of ideas, suggestions, innovation and positive development nearly always comes from the membership, Active and Associate. It is the membership that has control and this group commitment to purpose is beautiful to observe. At any point, if politics try to interfere, the members are quickly able to reset the course toward The Academy purpose.

Thomas Ebersole designed and developed the PERFSearch database of perfusion articles by himself and provided the service to everyone at no charge. Jeri Dobbs developed the PERFClass programs and offered them through The Academy. The development of the Internet Services was a voluntary commitment, as are the contributing editors of the AACP Newsletter, and The Proceedings. And, all of the speaking engagements and contributions to other organizations are voluntary contributions by members. The members of The Academy donate their contributions as part of their commitment to The Academy purpose. With The Academy all new ideas and suggestions regarding perfusion education are welcomed.

The Academy is also very appreciative of the sponsors of all of its programs and meetings. We should acknowledge that these sponsors are truly interested in perfusion education, and demonstrate their concern by supporting the efforts of The Academy. They are partners in perfusion education in every sense of the word.

In an effort to provide our sponsors with exposure of their products to the attendees of our Annual Seminar, the opening night Sponsor’s Hands-On Workshop was created in 2003. It is not an exhibit hall. It is a reception/workshop where the sponsors can display their newest products, answer questions and mingle with the perfusionists in attendance. It has become a key feature of the meeting.

A more recent program to be developed concerns perfusion students. Richard Melchior and William Riley have been working hard to get the newest perfusionists involved in The Academy. They have created a “Student Only” Facebook page to stimulate communication among the students of different programs. They are also seeking out ways to provide funding to help students attend and present at our Annual Seminar.

For the first twenty-two years of The Academy, The National Office was commanded by Earl and Judi Lawrence. This is not an easy task. There is much work that goes on behind the scenes to keep this organization running, and we thank them for all their hard work. David and Jill Palanzo were selected by the Council and Membership to take over that responsibility in 2001.

There are so many individuals responsible for the success of The Academy that it is impossible to name them all here. It is quite a significant commitment and service legacy to the perfusion community, and each is owed a great debt of gratitude for their efforts.

Regardless of all of the outstanding contributions of the officers and all members, in the past, it is the current membership that must be responsible for the future. The future of The Academy and its commitment is far more important than the past. There will be many, many new ideas and innovations that will come from perfusionists that are important to perfusionists. While those involved with the development and progress of The Academy for the first thirty-three years can rightfully be very proud, they will feel even more proud of those that will take up the challenge of the future.