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The Academy During Wartime
In October of 1941, the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology had its 45th Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois. During that meeting, the Academy had much to celebrate- membership had grown to a record 3,000 physicians and the Academy had launched a new innovation- the Home Study Course. Dr. Harry Gradle spent two years obtaining approval for his idea from hospitals, medical schools, the American Board of Ophthalmology and the American College of Surgeons. In its inaugural year, the Home Study Course drew in 301 physicians and residents, many more than had been expected.
In contrast, the Academy meeting one year later was an entirely different matter. In the fall of 1942 America was at war after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Academy was beginning to see its members join the war effort. The Academy was also in mourning after the loss of its Executive Secretary-Treasurer (the equivalent of today's Executive Vice President), Dr. William P. Wherry. Following his death, an ophthalmologist named Dr. William L. Benedict took the helm of the Academy. Because there were only two permanent staff members at the time, the Academy's office was moved from Omaha to Dr. Benedict's home town of Rochester, Minnesota where it would remain until 1979.
During the war years, the Academy kept up its activities but accommodated the doctors, now turned soldiers, with reduced fees. In 1945, when travel became too difficult, the Academy canceled its Annual Meeting- the only time it has done so in over 100 years of service.