In the spring of 1961, Dr. Robert Haggar of St. Joseph's Hospital and Dr. John Lynch of Henderson Hospital initiated the monthly regional meeting for the pathologists in Hamilton. The objectives were to discuss diagnostically difficult or interesting cases and to facilitate the discussion of policy and procedures in the practice of Anatomic Pathology in the region. The Hamilton Society of Pathologists (HSP) was formed. Amongst the founding members were Dr. Herb Foster from the Hamilton General Hospital; Dr. Robert Tasker from the Henderson General Hospital; Dr. Murray Mink from St. Joseph's Hospital; Dr. Riley Armstrong (one of the creators of the King-Armstrong phosphatase unit), Dr. Gilbert Warburton and Dr. Hans Lucke from Chedoke Hospital.
The meetings had always taken place at Upper Room of the Royal Hamilton Military Institute on Robinson Street in Hamilton. Dinner was always served in the same area before the scientific portion of the meeting. The meeting proved so successful that soon pathologists from around Hamilton asked to participate. By 1962/63 Dr. Lyle Jentz and Dr. Ted. Croal from Brantford, Dr. Vic Fowler from Burlington, Dr. Frank Macdonald and Dr. Verne R. Waldorf from Oakville, Dr. Gus Mertens from Galt (Cambridge) and Dr. Tom Shoniker from Kitchener had joined the group. Dr. Shoniker was the 14th member joining in 1963.
The earliest social events were gatherings at the homes of Lyle Jentz in Brantford and John Lynch in Ancaster. With the growth in membership numbers, attending the Stratford Festival in June became one of the favourite social activities for the pathologists.
In 1967, Dr. Iva Taves, after some resistance, became the first woman member of the society. Before that no female guest was allowed in the Royal Hamilton Military Institute. The pathologists were allowed to continue their meetings in the basement as a compromise. The limited space of the Upper Room also necessitated the move.
Minutes of the meetings were kept meticulously in the first few years, however, with retirement of most of the earlier members, these papers were discarded. Amongst the group of pathologists from outside Hamilton, those from Kitchener-Waterloo drove to Hamilton religiously every month, attending both the dinner and the scientific portion of the meeting. The latter part of the meeting was viewed as a rich resource for continued education. It was an outing they looked forward to.
In the early years, residents were not allowed to attend the meetings, which were quite informal. The staff pathologists were reluctant to let the residents witness their disagreements or mistakes. Although this tradition was stopped in the late 80's, residents seldom attended these evening meetings.
With increasing workload and administrative responsibilities related to restructuring, the attendance of the Hamilton Society of Pathologists Meetings began to decline. By the end of 1998, a typical meeting would involve about 15 pathologists at best. Out of those perhaps 10 would turn up for the dinner. In June of that year, the social event of wine-tasting was attended by only two pathologists and their spouses. No event was organized the following year.
From February 1999, these meetings were granted MOCOMP credits by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons.
In mid-August of 1999, Dr. Vicky Chen, the secretary-treasurer at the time, received a last-minute phone call informing her that the Royal Hamilton Military Institute, after 30 years, had gone bankrupt and closed down during the summer. An alternate location had to be arranged quickly. Fortunately, the Thistle Club next door was available and proved to be more than adequate. As the chief resident in 1976, Dr. Chen was allowed to attend a couple of these lively and informal meetings. Recognizing that without any documentation, the entire history of Hamilton Society of Pathologists would be lost with time. She started collecting details from members whenever possible. It was with their help that the history for this web site was created in 1999 - 2000. Revisions continued from time to time as more information became available to her.
Dr. Chen, who was also the Laboratory Medicine Residency Coordinator then, started encouraging residents' participation. This was not only helpful to the residents academically, but also gave them a chance to meet with their future colleagues outside Hamilton.
After one and a half year, the Thistle Club also went under. Dr. Chen, then the president, managed to arrange the meetings to be held at the Hamilton Waterfront Banquet and Conference Centre. This turned out to be a great location close to the lake with good food and atmosphere. To this day the meetings are still being held there.