The VSMA came into existence in February 1956 in Lynchburg. The group was known as the Virginia Association of Medical Assistants and had thirty-two (32) charter members coming from Lynchburg, Madison Heights, Tazewell and Petersburg.
The first annual meeting was held in Richmond with the Richmond Chapter hosting a two-day convention at the Hotel Jefferson. The constitution and bylaws were ratified at this meeting. Lynchburg organized the first chapter and was quickly followed by Richmond, Petersburg, and Charlottesville.
The early meetings were sponsored by drug companies and businesses and were well attended by many local physicians. Some such sponsors were Eli Lilly and Company, Royal Typewriter, Southern Medical Supply, CIBA, Eaton Labs, Reynolds Metals, American Tobacco Company, Hoffmann-LaRoche (now LabCorp), Searle, Burroughs Wellcome, Schering, and Smith Kline. As sponsors they provided cocktail parties, coffee breaks, afternoon tea, and flowers for the banquet.
The second meeting of the Virginia Association of Medical Assistants was held in Petersburg, at which it was decided that the President should be sent to the AAMA annual convention at the expense of the association. There was so much business and development to be done that multiple business meetings were held during the two-day meeting. Educational sessions were only done during the luncheons which were sponsored by various companies. A local physician served as moderator and the speakers were either physicians or drug representatives. Many physicians in Richmond and the surrounding area were very supportive of these meetings and offered guidance in developing protocol and policy.
Businesses and drug companies were very generous and involved with the VSMA. Newspapers such as The Daily Progress ran large articles, pictures, as well as outlined the topics, speakers and officers whenever the annual meeting was held in their area. Pictures and write-ups on newly elected officers were always published in area newspapers. Some of the topics presented at annual meetings reflected the current events of the time. Examples are Automobile Safety, General Electric Insurance-“What is an insurance form and how is it completed”, Civil Defense, Atomic Reactor Tour, Red Cross Volunteer Nurses Aides, Polio Vaccination Program, Self Treatment for Radioactive Fallout, and many more.
A typical meeting was a business meeting on Saturday morning, touring, or a get-acquainted tea in the afternoon, cocktail hour and formal banquet. On Sunday, there were hymns, prayer and a devotional reading. CEU sessions were held during the Saturday lunch which lasted for approximately two hours.
It was not until 1966 that the Friday evening Executive Board session was initiated. Being certified had become more important; therefore, additional CEU sessions were implemented during the Saturday sessions. It was not uncommon to have a get-acquainted tea on Saturday afternoon. This was probably the first “networking” session, long before the term was officially being used.
The VSMA has undergone significant changes since its inception 60 years ago. Membership in the society has moved from tri-level (local, state, and national) to bi-level (state and national). Meetings are held at different locations throughout the state and include an annual spring conference and fall educational seminar. The VSMA has a global presence by way of a web site and Facebook. Two of the executive board meetings are held via conference calls rather than face-to-face.
Originally Researched and Compiled by Deb Benson, CMA(AAMA), CCVTC, CGSC
Revised 2016 (Carolyn S. Johnson, CMA(AAMA), CPC