By Bonnie Olivett, OTR, CHT -- 2002
To achieve the future viability of ASHT, the issue of choosing members was one of the most difficult and tedious issues faced by the planning committee. The complexity of this issue began when a letter was sent in October 1975 to therapists associated with AOTA and APTA. This letter explained that a small committee was formulating plans to begin the application process for a group of interested therapists who specialized in the care of the disabled hand. It was an exciting concept to combine the expertise and knowledge base of physical and occupational therapists. To the surprise of the planning committee, a much higher response was received than was expected!
This response of interested prospective members to this specialized group of therapists gave added enthusiasm to continue the planning; however, the concept of qualifying membership became the formidable task at hand. It also became apparent that there were therapist educators and nurses expressing interest in membership to this specialized group, which further complicated the membership issue.
The planning committee spent hundreds of hours working on the establishment of standards and ideals for membership. It was finally decided that there would be two classifications for membership, that of Active and Associate. This initial classification was replicated in part from the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH), whose mentoring was most helpful in those formidable years.
Active membership stated that the applicant must be a registered or licensed occupational therapist or physical therapist with a minimum of three years in hand and upper extremity rehabilitation with a patient load of at least 75 percent in hand therapy. A letter of recommendation from a physician with whom they worked was also required.
Incorporation of ASHT came into inception on March 28, 1977. It was imperative that incorporation take place prior to the establishment of the membership criteria. With the milestone of incorporation in place, a detailed application was mailed in November 1977 to all who had expressed interest to the prior correspondence of the planning committee.
It was determined that the first voting membership of ASHT would be the members qualifying for the Active membership category. 54 Active applicants were in attendance at the Annual Meeting in Dallas, Feb. 20, 1978, along with 37 Associate members and one international therapist from Sweden, adding a third category of affiliate membership. Voting on that monumental day included the election of officers, acceptance of bylaws, establishment of $50 annual dues and the approval of the founding membership to ASHT by a floor vote. Our society was off and running and the rest is history!