The roots of the AACA were first formed on February 18,1983 at JFK International Airport in New York City when 18 surgeons and anatomists gathered to create a better forum for discussion between clinicians who practice the application of anatomy and those who study and teach anatomy.  The impetus for the meeting was raised by Ralph Ger, M.D., who, a few months earlier, had visited a meeting of the British Association of Clinical Anatomists (BACA), which was founded in 1977.  There was concern on both sides of the Atlantic that the reduction in time for the study of anatomy in the crowded medical curriculum might have a negative effect on training for clinical practice.  At the New York meeting, the American group elected officers to guide the formation of the AACA and recruit members.  These included: Oliver Beahrs, M.D., president, Stephen Gray, Ph.D. secretary/treasurer, and four councilors, Sidney Black, M.D., R Ger, M.D., Paul Jones, Ph.D., and John Skandalakis, M.D., Ph.D.  Over the next few months, additional members were recruited and bylaws and a constitution were circulated.  With 64 interested members, a second organizational meeting was held in Atlanta in October concurrent with the meeting of the American College of Surgeons.

In Atlanta, the constitution and bylaws were adopted on October 17, 1983, and the AACA was officially established "to advance the field of clinical anatomy by encouraging research and publication and by promoting high standards of anatomic instruction." It was decided to hold the first annual meeting at the Mayo Clinic in May, 1984, and Don Cahill, Ph.D., was appointed Local Arrangements Chair.  It was also decided to extend founding membership to December 31, 1983, when 88 members were enrolled, with about 60% being clinicians and 40% basic scientists.

Seventy-seven members attended the first annual meeting of AACA held May 17-19, 1984 in Rochester, MN, where it was decided that meeting abstracts would be published in The American Surgeon, AACA having not yet established an official journal.  W. Henry Hollinshead, Ph.D. was recognized as the first "Honored Member," a tradition that continues at each annual meeting.  The first officers as per constitutional designation were also elected:

Oliver H. Beahrs, M.D., President
Ralph Ger, M.D., President-Elect
Robert A. Chase, M.D., Vice President
Stephen W. Gray, Ph.D., Secretary/Treasurer

Ralph Ger, M.D.
Donald R. Cahill, Ph.D.
John E. Skandalakis, M.D., Ph.D.
Sidney Black, M.D.

Since its founding, the AACA has grown in tradition, scope, and membership.  Dr. Alan Green, representing BACA, attended the second annual meeting of the AACA in Omaha in 1985, and presented the association with the Presidential Medal as a gift from our sister organization in anatomy.  The medal is engraved with the head of William Hunter and is worn by the current AACA president at the annual meeting.  A postgraduate course, offered by Drs. Ger and Cahill on the Surgical Anatomy of the Pelvis, was held immediately following the third annual meeting, at the Mayo Clinic.  Postgraduate courses are now offered immediately following each annual meeting.  Membership had grown to 283 by the time of the third meeting.  At the fourth annual meeting in Toronto, 1987, the membership decided to discontinue publication of meeting abstracts in The American Surgeon and to join with BACA to establish a new journal, Clinical Anatomy, for the organizations.  Negotiations to create a journal were conducted by Drs. Ralph Ger, Don Cahill, and Keith Moore with the publishing house of Alan R. Liss, Inc.  The first issue of Clinical Anatomy  appeared in May 1988, just before the fifth annual meeting.  The first editors were Ralph Ger, M.D., representing AACA, and Ray Scothorne, M.D., representing BACA.  Today, Clinical Anatomy has earned an international reputation for human anatomy with clinical relevance, and the AACA annual meeting draws attendees from six different continents. 

Those who are interested  in more detailed discussion of the history of the AACA are referred to the following articles:

Dawson, D.L., 1988.  The American Association of Clinical Anatomists: The Beginning and First Five Years.  Clin. Anat. 1:237-253.

Dalley, A.R., 1999.  The American Association of Clinical Anatomists (AACA): The Other American Anatomy Association.  Anat. Rec (New Anat). 257:154-156.

Ger, R., 2004.  The American Association of Clinical Anatomists from 1983-2003: Refelections of a Founding Member.  Clin.Anat. 17:451-453.