The International Association of Endocrine Surgeons (IAES) owes its origins more to Peter Heimann, Professor of Surgery, Bergen, Norway, than to any other person. He was a general surgeon with a particular interest in the thyroid gland, and it was his ambition to polarize the activities of those general surgeons interested in the endocrine system into a special group within the Société Internationale de Chirurgie (SIC).
In 1978, Peter Heimann wrote to some of his friends that he was dying of gastric carcinoma stating his fervent wish that an group of endocrine surgeons should be formed. Scientific papers were invited and a single day program set up during the next meeting of the SIC together with the provision for all those interested to meet and discuss plans for the future.
At 9:00 a.m., Thursday, September 4, 1979, a group met in a room of the SIC congress in San Francisco and elected a president, Selwyn Taylor; a president-elect, Richard Egdahl; a secretary-treasurer, Orlo Clark; and a small international committee: N. Thompson, Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A. (coordinator); H.A. Bruining, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Y. Fujimoto, Tokyo, Japan; P.-O. Granberg, Stockholm, Sweden; T.S. Reeve, Sydney, Australia; H.D. Röher, Heidelberg, Federal Republic of Germany; W. Rudowski, Warsaw, Poland; and S.A. Wells, Jr., Durham, North Carolina, U.S.A.
All those who had indicated that they would be present became the founding members and, since then, the membership has been strictly monitored by surgeons from the applicant's own country, as well as by the committee. The IAES currently counts more than 400 members from around the globe.
The meeting's first scientific session opened at 11.00 a.m. and so keen were other members of the congress to attend, that a larger hall had to be found to house the afternoon session. The standard of presentation and the subsequent discussion was of the highest order and so it has remained ever since. At the conclusion of the next meeting, which was held in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1981, the founding president handed over to his successor a badge of office, placing it round his neck, and this little ceremony has been carried on since at each meeting. Biennial meetings followed in Hamburg in 1983, Paris in 1985, Sydney in 1987, Toronto in 1989, Stockholm in 1991, Hong Kong in 1993, Lisbon in 1995, Acapulco in 1997, Vienna in 1999, Brussels in 2001, Uppsala Sweden in 2004, and Durban South Africa in 2005. It is heartening that the members' enthusiasm is maintained and even increased. The IAES owes much of the success of its early days to the beneficent sponsorship of the parent organization, the SIC.
The original aims of the IAES were to provide "A forum for the exchange of views of those who are involved in expanding the frontiers of endocrine surgery whether by clinical experience, laboratory investigation or in any other way: Not for the general surgeon who occasionally operates on a thyroid or adrenal gland."
The IAES, indeed, fulfils these aims, and is proud of its place in the Société Internationale de Chirurgie. Finally, the World Journal of Surgery regularly devotes a complete issue to the contributions of the IAES.
The IAES always presents a plenary session at the SIC congress and a Peter Heimann lecture as a prestigious occasion, which constitutes a tribute and reminder of our founder.