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The American Society for Circumpolar Health (ASCH) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting research, exchanging knowledge and fostering greater awareness and responsiveness to the health issues of circumpolar people. The ASCH also promotes and supports efforts of all circumpolar peoples in the attainment of better health. The American Society for Circumpolar Health was founded in 1980, and became a charter member of the International Union for Circumpolar Health (IUCH) in 1986. Other members of the IUCH include the Canadian Society for Circumpolar Health; the Nordic Society for Arctic Medicine; the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences; and the Danish/Greenlandic Society for Circumpolar Health.The ASCH is actively involved with the planning and organizing of the International Congress for Circumpolar Health (ICCH) held every three years. In 2012, ASCH hosted the 15th ICCH in Fairbanks, Alaska where the very first meeting of circumpolar health scientists was held in 1967.
Current ASCH Board Members
Abbie Willetto, President
Philippe Amstislavski, Vice President
Cornelia Jessen, Treasurer
Vanessa Hiratsuka, Board Member
Vacant, Board member
Vacant, Student Board Member
History of Circumpolar Health
The ASCH is one of the principal founders of the international circumpolar health movement that has been bringing together researchers, health officials and professionals, and caregivers in mutual cooperation and exchange for over 40 years. At the 15th International Congress on Circumpolar Health in Fairbanks, Dr Neil Murphy’s keynote speech providing a broad overview of the movement’s history is summarized in this powerpoint presentation. Another overview was compiled for the 13th International Congress in Nuuk Greenland by Bjerregaard, Young, and Curtis. A historical summary from 1967 to 1991 is provided below:The Beginnings: 1967–1991
The Circumpolar Health movement started in the early 1960’s. Dr. C. Earl Albrecht was commissioner of Health for the State of Alaska from 1945 to 1956. He envisioned an International Union for Circumpolar Health for over a decade before the first international meeting became a reality.In 1967 Dr. Albrecht initiated the first circumpolar symposium. He was then professor of Preventive Disease at Jefferson University in Pennsylvania and a visiting consultant to the Washington, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho (WAMI) Medical Program at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. With the help of the Arctic Institute of the North America, of which he was President in 1966 and 1967, and the University of Alaska, under President William R. Wood, the First International Symposium for Circumpolar Health was held at the University of Fairbanks July 23–28, 1967.
Dr. Fred Milan was then a Human Research Physiologist with the Arctic Aeromedical Laboratory for the United States Air Force in Fairbanks. He became the local co-chairman with Dr. Albrecht for this first symposium. Participants came from the USSR, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Greenland, Iceland, and Finland. It was at this symposium that an informal international affiliation was formed. The decision was made to hold a symposium (later called a Congress) every three years, each in a different country. The basic purpose of the symposia were to bring together the medical scientists, health care delivery specialists, health administrators, and health consumers to discuss the state of the art in their respective fields; to allow national and international participants to observe and discuss the health situations in their own country; and to relate solutions to health problems in other parts of the world to the unique health problems of the circumpolar regions.
At this meeting, an informal organization of the American Society for Circumpolar Health was formed. Dr. C. Earl Albrecht, with the assistance of Dr. Fred Milan and other Alaskan scientists, held this organization together in order to actively participate in future international symposia.
The 2nd and 3rd symposia were held in Oulu, Finland (1971) and Yellowknife, Canada (1974). In these symposia, participations from all countries, including the USSR, increased.
The 4th Symposium was held in Novosibirsk, USSR, October 27, 1978. Drs. Albrecht and Milan were members of the organizing committee with V.P. Kaznachev, Academician of the USSR Academy of Medical Science, Novosibirsk, as Chairman. The symposium was sponsored by the Regional Office for Europe of the world Health Organization (WHO). Approximately 35 United States participants joined with those from the USSR, Sweden, France, Norway, Finland, England, Hungary, Japan, Netherlands, Denmark, and Canada.
Approximately 325 scientific papers and 150 posters were presented. The United States presented 30 papers an seven poster displays. Most of the papers (181) and posters (128) were presented by the Soviet participants.
ASCH Formalizes Status
In 1979, the informal American Society for Circumpolar Health moved to formalize their status. In 1980, the Constitution and Bylaws were drawn up and the American society for Circumpolar Health became a reality. Dr. Albrecht became the first president with Edward Scott, Sc.D., Vice President; Wayne Myers, M.D., Secretary; Thomas Bender, M.D., Treasure. The first major task of the newly formed society was to guarantee quality representation at the 5th International Symposium in 1981.
International Symposia: 5th
Denmark hosted the 5th International Symposium for Circumpolar Health in August 1981. Approximately 300 participants formally registered from 17 countries. Scientists came from Argentina and Australia to share Antarctic activities. The United States had 40 participants.
In 1982, Dr. Wayne Myers became President: Robert Fortuine, M.D., Vice President: William Ryan, Secretary; Brian McMahon, M.D., Treasurer; and John Middaugh, M.D., Director. At the 1982 meeting the officers continued the task initiated at the 5th Symposium, prepare to host 6th meeting in Anchorage, Alaska in May 1984. Dr. Albrecht announced during this time the progress of the formation of the International Union for Circumpolar Health. The American Society for Circumpolar Health (ASCH) would be one of the four forming bodies of the Union.
International Symposia: 6th
The 6th International Symposium for Circumpolar Health was hosted by the ASCH and was held in Anchorage, Alaska May 17–21, 1984. It was co-sponsored by the University of Alaska and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. Approximately 700 participants were registered for the meeting from 21 countries and 270 scientific papers and posters were presented.
The Regional Office for Europe of the World Health Organization, the organization responsible for WHO programs in the arctic convened two working groups in conjunction with this meeting. The Alaska Public Health Association held its annual meeting as part of the Symposium. They invited speakers, composed of internationally recognized foreign medical specialists, to meet with the U.S. scientists to discuss an Arctic Health Policy. The American Public Health Association eventually produced “The National Arctic Health Science Policy” as a result.
Proceedings from all of the symposia have been published except the 1st and 4th. Proceeding of the 6th Symposium were published in a 484 page hard cover book including 108 of the 199 oral presentations. It was edited by Dr. Fortuine and published by the University of Washington Press (Seattle and London) in cooperation with the University of Alaska Press, Fairbanks.
Initial Rumblings of the International Union for Circumpolar Health
At the 1984 annual meeting of the ASCH, held in conjunction with the 6th Symposium, those who took office were Dr. John Middaugh, President; Dr. Robert Fortuine, Vice President; Dr. Frank Pauls, Secretary; Dr. Helen Beirne, Treasurer, and five person board of Directors. Dr. Albrecht was appointed an Honorary Director. It was decided that the ASCH would henceforth hold its annual meeting in conjunction with American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Arctic Division Meeting and become a major participant in this scientific conference. At the September 28, 1985 annual meeting in Fairbanks, two representatives; Dr. Middaugh, and Ted Mala, M.D., were elected as delegates to the International Union for Circumpolar Health’s first organizational meeting that was held in Oulu, Finland in May, 1986.
Albrecht/Milan Endowment Fund
The ASCH had 98 members at the date of their October 20, 1986 annual meeting. Drs. Albrecht and Milan were recognized for their visionary organizational work in Circumpolar Health and for promoting international cooperation. At this meeting, the concepts of the Albrecht/Milan Endowment Fund was presented. The Board also endorsed the concept of Alaska Medicine as the official journal of the ASCH. Dr. Fortuine was elected to serve as the second delegate to the IUCH along with Dr. Middaugh.
New Era: An International Congress on Circumpolar Health
As the International Union for Circumpolar Health was now forming, the meetings formerly know as International ‘Symposia’ now became known as International ‘Congress’ on Circumpolar Health.
The 7th International Congress on Circumpolar Health (ICCH) was held in Umea, Sweden, June 8–12, 1987. Scientific and health specialists from 20 countries presented 344 papers and poster displays. Of the papers presented, 66 had at least one author from the United States. Of the papers presented by the U.S. participants, 79% were authored by member of the ASCH. Members of the ASCH numbered 129 at the time, 52 of whom were from Alaska. The proceedings to the 7th Congress is 744 page hard back publication containing 175 of the presented scientific papers.
The September 24, 1987 annual meeting of the ASCH indicated 143 members. Much of this increase resulted from the 7th ICCH. By this time, the International Union for Circumpolar Health had been organized. The Bylaws, for which Dr. Albrecht had drafted the first language, had been finalized and the four adhering bodies to the new Union became the ASCH, the Nordic Council for Arctic Medical Research, the Canadian Society for Circumpolar Health, and the Siberian Branch of the USSR Academy of Science, Medical Section. Two delegates from each adhering body, two members elected by the members of the Congress and a representative of the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research were to make up the body of the Council of the International Union for Circumpolar Health (IUCH).
All officers remained the same in the ASCH election. Alaska Medicine was adopted by the membership as the official journal and would been included in price of membership. Proposed changes to the Bylaws were adopted that would allow for the establishment of the Albrecht/Milan Foundation. A committee was appointed to research the structure of the Foundation.
The October 8, 1988 annual meeting was held in Fairbanks with the theme being “Science and Education.” ASCH membership was at 154. The officers remained the same with Drs. Milan and Myers becoming new Honorary Board members. The ASCH participated during the coming year in supporting the AAAS Arctic Division Meeting, the IUCH Tobacco and Cancer workshop, and the Alaska Science Foundation. Funds totaling $4,472.85 were donated to the Albrecht/Milan Endowment Fund within the ASCH.
The September 15, 1989 annual meeting was held in Fairbanks. The ASCH Constitution and Bylaws were amended to reflect the inclusion of the Society’s membership in the IUCH and the changes in election of officers to provide for continuity with ICCH. A new section was added to the Bylaws which established guidelines for the Albrecht/Milan Fund.
The four new officers that had been elected took over at this meeting. Replacing a team that had worked together for six years was to be a challenge for Anne Lanier, M.D., President; David Templin, M.D., Vice President; Jeanne Roche, Secretary; and Carl Hild, Treasurer. There was a need to select a new delegate to the IUCH and Mr. Hild was elected to work with Dr. Middaugh. Drs. Beirne, Fortuine, Pauls, and Mim Dixon were appointed as Honorary Board Members.
During this year the ASCH participated and supported the Alaska Science and Engineering Foundation, the U.S. Arctic Research Foundation; the AAAS Arctic Division Meeting, the IUCH and the University of Alaska’s Institute for Circumpolar Health.
8th International Congress on Circumpolar Health
The 8th ICCH was held in Whitehorse, Canada from May 21–25, 1990. Approximately 750 delegates from 15 countries attended. Over 420 paper and posters were presented. The Alaska Public Health Association held its annual meeting in conjunction with the Congress. The past officers Drs. Midduagh, Fortuine, Pauls, and Beirne were honored for their long service to the Society. At the meeting of the Council for the IUCH Mr. Held was elected Vice President. The Soviet delegation invited the IUCH to attend the 9th Congress in Novosibirsk USSR in June of 1993. The ASCH made the offer to host the 10th ICCH in Alaska in 1996.
Dr. Fred Milan was presented the Jack Hildes award by the IUCH for long-standing health research in arctic regions. This award has been given at the 1987 and 1990 IUCHs. The Canadian government struck medals in honor of Dr. Hildes, a revered former Canadian health researcher. The medals have been given to an outstanding representative from each of the four adhering bodies of outstanding representative from each of the four adhering bodies of the IUCH. These are considered the highest award in Circumpolar Health. Dr. Albrecht had been the U.S. recipient of this award in 1987.
The 1990 annual meeting was held in Anchorage on October 1990. Dr. Lanier had resigned in the spring and Mr. Hild was elected as President in the fall. Dr. Middaugh was elected to continue as one of the two delegates to the Council of the IUCH with Mr. Hild. Dr. Pauls was elected to a Board seat, while Dr. Middaugh was appointed an Honorary Board Member. Drs. Albrecht, Beirne, Fortuine, Milan, and Pauls, along with five other members, received Emeritus status as ten year members of ASCH.
During 1990 the ASCH participated in and supported the “International Workshop on Alveolar Hydatid Disease” held in Anchorage June 2–8, 1990, the 1990 AAAS Arctic Division Meeting, and ICCH. Anita Tigert was elected as the Treasurer of the ASCH. Consultants were hired to pull together all the pieces the Society had laid out and to orchestrate the initial meetings of the Albrecht/Milan Foundation.
More to Come: 1991–
Through the efforts of numerous dedicated people over a span of many years a structure wasformed that will build for the future. In the winter of 1991 the dream to be able to regularly support Circumpolar Health activities in the United States was realized and named in honor of the people who had the dream. The beginning of the Albrecht/Milan Foundation is the beginning of a new era in United States Circumpolar Health.
The International Union
The American Society for Circumpolar Health was inaugurated in 1980 and helped initiate the formation of the International Union for Circumpolar Health in March 1986 in Stockholm, Sweden. The International Union is an important vehicle for international collaboration in circumpolar health. Through the International Union for Circumpolar Health, ASCH is affiliated with the following circumpolar sister organizations:Canadian Society for Circumpolar Health (CSCH)
Danish/Greenlandic Society for Circumpolar Health
Nordic Society for Circumpolar Health (NSCH)
Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS-SB) English / Russian
Finnish Society of Arctic Medicine and Biology (ATBY)
Icelandic Society for Arctic Medicine
Circumpolar Health Research Network (CirchNet)
Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR)
Swedish Society for Arctic Medicine
Many members of ASCH are active in the Circumpolar Health Research Network (CirchNet), which unites the International Network for Circumpolar Health Research and the International Journal of Circumpolar Health. The Network meets in the intervening years between IUCH’s triennial congress.
International Journal of Circumpolar Health
The International Journal of Circumpolar Health is the flagship publication of the circumpolar health movement.
The quarterly journal specializes in Arctic and Antarctic health issues and provides a forum for many disciplines, including the biomedical sciences, social sciences, and humanities as they relate to human health in high latitude environments. The journal has a particular interest in the health of indigenous peoples. The journal is a vehicle for dissemination and exchange of knowledge among researchers, policy makers, practitioners, and those they serve.
The publishing activity related to arctic health research was originally initiated through the Nordic Council of Ministers and its Secretariat of Arctic Medicine in 1969. The secretariat organized expert meetings, of which the summaries formed the initial series of publications. The first of these publications entitled Nordic Council for Arctic Medical Research Report appeared in 1972. The publication series was given the name Arctic Medical Research in 1984 and it was indexed in Medline in 1986. As from 1997 the journal’s name changed into International Journal of Circumpolar Health.
The responsibility for the publishing was carried out by the Institute of Arctic Medicine at the University of Oulu from 1996. The other publishers at that time were the International Union of Circumpolar Health and the Nordic Society for Arctic Medicine. In 2003 the University of Alaska Anchorage and University of Manitoba joined as publishers. A considerable change in the ownership of the journal occurred in 2004 when the International Association of Circumpolar Health Publishers (now CirchNet) was established. At this time a total of five members established the publishing association. Since the formation of the publishing association it has gradually expanded to include many northern universities, research networks and scientific societies.
In 2007 a new independent publication series entitled Circumpolar Health Supplements was formed.
Copyrights of the Journal rests with the International Association of Circumpolar Health Publishers.