American College of Osteopathic Neurologists and Psychiatrists

The American College of Neuropsychiatrists

(An Osteopathic Institution)

By Floyd E. Dunn, D.O., F.A.C.N., F.A.A.M.D.

Although formally incorporated under the laws of the state of Missouri in 1939, the beginnings of the American College of Neuropsychiatrists go back much earlier. It could be said that the organization of Osteopathic neurologists and psychiatrists began with the opening of the Still-Hildreth Osteopathic Hospital at Macon, Missouri, prior to the start of World War I. In the early years, Dr. L. VanHorn Gerdine did the psychiatric evaluations on the patients admitted, at the same time that that he taught Psychiatry at the Des Moines and the Kirksville osteopathic colleges. He was the neuropsychiatrist who oriented Dr. Arthur Hildreth and Dr. Harry Still (the founders of the hospital which was first called the Still-Hildreth Sanatorium) in the discipline, and he was also the mentor of Dr. Herman P. Hoyle who became Still Hildreth’s Chief Psychiatrist. Gerdine, himself had been psychiatrist-in-chief for the first nine years of the institution’s growth. In 1923, Dr. Gerdine moved to California where he became professor of Neuropsychiatry at the College of Osteopathic Physicians & Surgeons in Los Angeles. This man, who had received his M.D. degree from Rush Medical College, and his D.O. degree from the old Massachusetts College of Osteopathy, did more than any other D.O. to initiate into the disciplines of neurology and psychiatry those people who, in the mid-thirties began the foundation work, which resulted in the founding of our College.

In addition to Still-Hildreth Hospital in Mid-America, the profession was fortunate to have an Osteopathic Psychiatric Hospital on each coast. In California there was the Merrill Sanatorium under the direction of Dr. Edward S. Merrill, in the seaside town of Venice. In Pennsylvania, in the Philadelphia suburb of Willow Grove, there was a small private osteopathic hospital operated by Drs. Dufur and Fuller.

It was the summer of 1936 that the real foundations, of what was to become the American College of Neuropsychiatrists, were laid. On their way to the A.O.A. Convention in New York City, a small group of people who were then recognized as neuropsychiatrists gathered to discuss items of mutual interest and submitted to the Attorney General of the state together with a petition for incorporation as a not-for-profit organization. At this time the Board of Trustees of the American Osteopathic Association was again petitioned to officially recognize the American College of Neuropsychiatrists, and at the Annual Meeting of the American Osteopathic Association in Dallas, Texas June 26-30, 1936 recognition was accorded. The Board also granted to the A.C.N. the authority to set standards for specialists in Neurology and Psychiatry within the profession, and granted recognition of the Degree of Fellow when bestowed properly upon doctors who had filled the minimum requirements for that Degree. Letters of invitation were sent to every physician in our profession who was known to be practicing neurology and/or psychiatry, offering them the opportunity to submit their credentials and applications for charter membership in this new College, which was to become, by official A.O.A. Board action, the standard-bearer and the standard-setter for physicians practicing those two related disciplines.