Each time I sit at my computer to compose this Message I think back over the history of the Basic Science Education Forum. It all began when I contacted the Association of American Medical Colleges Group on Educational Affairs (AAMC:GEA) and convened a meeting of basic science faculty attending the AAMC annual conference. Some of you were there; it was Chicago, November 12th, 1988. We agreed to organize and continue to meet annually. Our request for official recognition within the AAMC:GEA led to the creation of a new GEA activity – Special Interest Groups – and the Basic Science Education Forum became their first SIG.
We began that November with the mission of bring together the faculty who were actually responsible for teaching the basic sciences. Our purposes were simple: to discuss educational issues which affect all basic sciences, to share current techniques and innovative ideas for teaching the sciences fundamental to the practice of medicine, and to provide a means for faculty to have a positive influence on a rapidly changing medical curriculum. Today, the power of this fundamental message continues to attract faculty to the BSEF at an annualized rate of 20 new members per month! Our Directory of Colleagues has grown to over 1,000 faculty, and includes basic scientists from medical schools in eleven countries of the world! In only six years, the BSEF has gained the recognition of a global community of basic science educators.
We have responded to this increased challenge with a number of initiatives to better serve the needs of our growing and diversifying membership; implementing the Biennial Conferences and securing grant funding of projects are but two examples. The BSEF will become eligible for Foundation funding as soon as our application for tax exempt status is approved by the IRS.
By all such signs, it may appear that the BSEF has outgrown or even severed its relationship with the AAMC:GEA. That, however, is definitely not the case. Despite our global outlook, the core of this organization remains an integral part of the AAMC:GEA as their first (and most successful) Special Interest Group. It is in this capacity which we as basic science faculty will have the most influence on curricular reform in North American medical schools, and we must not lose sight of this goal. At the same time, the AAMC:GEA recognizes that several of our activities go beyond the scope of a Special Interest Group. The solution was to clearly differentiate the sponsorship of each of our varied activities.
Twice each year, the AAMC:GEA Basic Science Education Special Interest Group will participate in the GEA National and Regional programs, contributing the basic science perspective. Twice each year, this publication – renamed the BASIC SCIENCE EDUCATOR to clearly identify it with the SIG – will be printed and distributed to all members of the Special Interest Group. SIG membership is open to any faculty, staff, or student affiliated with an AAMC-member eligible medical school, and all SIG events will carry the name of the AAMC:GEA.
The Basic Science Education Forum will function as an extension of the Basic Science Education SIG, although independent from the AAMC:GEA. The Forum will continue to sponsor the Biennial Conferences, expand its membership world-wide, finance its activities through grant and other means of support, and provide copies of the BASIC SCIENCE EDUCATOR to all members not within an AAMC-eligible school.
With this issue we celebrate the expanded roles of the Basic Science Education Forum, and the Basic Science Education Special Interest Group with the creation of a new column dedicated to sharing an International Perspective from colleagues around the world. The knowledge we acquire and the opinions we shape within the Forum will be of substantial value as we speak for the basic sciences within the AAMC:GEA. Now more than ever we encourage your participation in guiding the future of basic science education.