Southern California experienced an unprecedented population growth immediately post World War II, particularly by veterans who had been stationed in or passed through the area during their military service. They were enchanted not only by the climate but more importantly by the obvious opportunities available. Among them were young physicians who, through their military experiences, had come to recognize the promise of psychiatry and were filled with the hopes of the “can-do” American spirit.
They found scattered pockets of psychiatric practices of varied sophistication with no major focus or organization: there was the Veterans Administration Hospital with the Brentwood residence training program; the medical schools at University of Southern California (USC) and Loma Linda University; Los Angeles Psychoanalytic Institute and Society; Los Angeles Medical Society; State of California Mental Hospital System; neuropsychiatrists; neurologists; psychiatrists; a nucleus of many recent refugee orthodox and heterodox lay and medical psychoanalysts. Altogether, these professionals represented the entire spectrum of psychiatric dogmas; hypnosis, insulin and electroschock, neuropsychiatry, neurology, psychoanalysis, dynamic and not-so-dynamic psychotherapy, inpatient and outpatient clinicians, public and private practitioners… a true potpourri!
As Marvin A. Klems, M.D., and I viewed this scene in 1948, it seemed that somehow some sense of order, an organization, was needed. We needed a voice for psychiatry in Southern California to speak to the public, to the press, and to whoever needed to consult with psychiatrists. We needed a stabilizing force to bring together the proponents of these various professional notions so that they might interact with each other, educate each other about their ideas and successes and failures, for the benefit of their patients, themselves, and the greater society. Additionally, the Los Angeles Society of Neurology and Psychiatry required board certification for an applicant to be considered for full membership. Their refusal to alter that admission criterion also motivated many local psychiatrists to form their own organization.
Because the groups were so disparate and their emotions often high and strong, it was a challenge to think about how to bring them together in order to interact productively. Perhaps an organizing meeting arranged anonymously would attract a nucleus for an organization of psychiatrists representative of the various persuasions and interests.
And so, with these thoughts in mind, I enlisted the help of Jerome Kummer, M.D., and Dr. Klemes enlisted the support of Allen Enelow, M.D. We spoke to key persons in as many of the various psychiatric groups as we could, trying to enlist their support of an organization which would represent southern California psychiatry in all its aspects. When we had a working group, we arranged the first meeting at a hall we rented on Beverly Boulevard in or near the Rexall Building, as it was then known. That evening about 100 psychiatrists attended and founded the Southern California Psychiatric Society.
The letterhead of the Southern California Psychiatric Society indicated the following officers and council members: Mathew Ross, M.D., President; Jerome M. Kummer, M.D., Secretary; Charles W. Tidd, M.D., President-Elect; Leo Rangell, M.D., Treasurer.
Councillors (all M.D.’s): Roberta Crutcher; Allen Enelow; Samuel Futterman; Ralph Greenson;
Norman Levy; Jack Lomas; Judd Marmor; Harry Nierenberg; Clarence Olsen; Eugene Pumpian-Mindlin; Robert Wyers; Eugene Ziskind.
At this time, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) was far off on the East Coast, and its view of Southern California was not only distant but dim. In 1953, however, APA did plan an Annual Meeting to be held in the newly built Hilton hotel on Wilshire Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles. At that meeting, APA Presidents Drs. Ewen Cameron and Kenneth Appel gathered together thirteen representatives of psychiatric societies from various sections of the United States, including the Southern California Psychiatric Society, and fumblingly, hesitantly brought us into a brand new subdivision of the APA, namely the Assembly of District Branches. No one was quite certain how exactly we would fit into the overall APA organizational pattern, but there was the feeling that grass-roots should have meaningful representation in the affairs of the APA and might eventually speak for it and represent the APA at the local level. And so in May 1953, at the APA Annual Meeting, the Southern California Psychiatric Society became a District Branch of the APA. SCPS’ first president, Mathew Ross, M.D., became the representative of SCPS to the APA Assembly. Dr. Ross subsequently became a member of the Assembly Board, and ultimately its Speaker.
In 1962 the Internal Revenue Service granted 501(c)(6) (non-profit, business league) status to the Southern California Psychiatric Society. The first Directors of the Corporation were Drs. Samuel Futterman, Harry Nierenberg, G. Cresswell Burns, Jack Lomas, Max Hayman, Leo Rangell, H. Michael Rosow, Helen Tausend, Ruth Jaeger, Max Sherman, Carl Sugar, George Tarjan, James T. Ferguson, Edward F. Price, Eugene Pupian-Mindlin, and Frank Tallman.
SCPS’ original geographic area covered the counties of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Diego, Imperial, Orange, Riverside, and Santa Barbara. In 1959 the counties of San Diego and Imperial broke off to form the San Diego Society of Psychiatric Physicians, now the San Diego Psychiatric Society. In November 1984, Orange County broke off to form the Orange County Psychiatric Society.
Various Chapters formed as subgroups of the Society including Ventura, Santa Barbara, South Bay, San Bernardino, Riverside, and San Gabriel Valley. In 1984 the Society ‘regionalized’ to form the regions on Inland, North Central, San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley, Santa Barbara, South Bay, South East, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles South, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
In 1986 the regions were realigned to form Inland, San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley/Los Angeles East, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles South, Ventura, and West Los Angeles.
Finally, in 1988 these regions were again to form our current regional structure: Inland, San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley/ Los Angeles East, Santa Barbara, Ventura, South Bay, Los Angeles South, and West Los Angeles.
Service in SCPS has proven to be an excellent preparation for service and recognition by one’s peers nationally. SCPS has produced several APA Presidents, several Board of Trustees members, Committee Chairpersons, one Medical Director, and inter alia positions of responsibility and prominence throughout the APA. This is a very significant aspect of SCPS history in that it demonstrates not only the commitment of SCPS member/leaders to the local psychiatric scene, but also to the national international scenes.
Since its inception, the Southern California Psychiatric Society has continued to represent the interests of its members and help further the national goals of the American Psychiatric Association.