ACCP/SCP History

(The early days, as related by the late Joseph E. Paris, MD, Past President)

By Joseph E. Paris, MD

As one of the old-timers, I am frequently asked by newer members what it was it like when we began. With the SCP now counting 14 years of growth, this is a good time to tell the story for the younger generation. The SCP began as a dream of Armond Start, a visionary correctional physician who passed away unexpectedly in 2000. Armond had been the Medical Director of the Oklahoma DOC, a post that he also held later on in the Texas and the Wisconsin DOC. To prepare this review, I had the privilege of looking at a summary of SCP events Armond Start wrote in 1997.

The Beginning

Armond envisioned an organization for the representation of and as a forum for correctional physicians. He began working as its secretary, and enlisted the support of Ron Shansky, the former Illinois DOC Medical Director and a longtime consultant in correctional health care. Under the banner of the National Center for Correctional Health Care Studies, an organization Armond created, a memorandum was mailed in August of 1992 to 1700 correctional physicians in the NCCHC’s MD mailing list. The memo announced an organizational meeting for those interested, to be held during the annual NCCHC meeting in Chicago on September 25, 1992. At the meeting, Armond and Ron met with about thirty correctional doctors willing to participate and pay $35.00 in dues.

I was present at that meeting, but I do not recall all the other participants. I know that that Armond Start, Ron Shansky, Steve Spencer, Joe Goldenson, Arthur Raines, Donald Potts and I were there. I apologize for not remembering all the charter members. With only a few members, incipient bylaws, no business site, and very little cash, the startup was rough. To get us going, Armond chipped in $1,000.00 of his own money. I think we eventually returned the seed money to him but I am not sure.

By March 12, 1993, at another national meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, the SCP had 81 dues-paying members. About half of these attended. A mail-in ballot was circulated on April 1, 1993 for the approval of the bylaws and constitution Armond had drafted and the election of the first slate of officers. Ron Shansky was elected first president. Arthur Raines was secretary, Armond Start was treasurer, and there was an editorial board consisting of Joe Goldenson, James Hipkens, and Donald Potts. By the next meeting, September 20, 1993, in Orlando, Florida, the SCP was well underway and offered both an educational program and a business meeting. During the formative years, some of the biggest challenges were instituting processes and government structures such as committees able to propel the Society forward. So much depended and still depends on the President and the Board. Where there was strong leadership, the Society made great leaps forward. At other times, it just maintained the status quo. This is why committees and member involvement are so important.

Evolution of the SCP

Driven by enthusiastic leaders, the original nucleus grew steadily, refined its bylaws, and evolved into the Society as we know it. The SCP developed a formula still in use today: a quarterly newsletter, one or more annual meetings with lectures and presentations tailored to correctional physicians, and a constructive relationship to other correctional organizations. This particular area required some delicate diplomacy. Other correctional societies comprise a broad spread of professionals including doctors. It is no secret that some would have preferred to see correctional physicians develop their group from within a broader, preexisting organization. To Armond Start’s and Ron’s credit, the model chosen has preserved absolute independence for the SCP members while being able to harmoniously interact with other correctional organizations. To date, SCP national meetings have always been conducted in conjunction with national meetings of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, the American Correctional Health Services Association, or the Correctional Medical Institute.

Managing the SCP

Initially, the SCP was managed by a Chicago-based management company called Westerbeck. NCCHC began managing SCP in 1997. A very young Paula Hancock, who had only been at the Commission a year and a half, was given the role of Executive Director of the Society, a role that she played with distinction. When Westerbeck turned over management to NCCHC, all it supplied was a disk with the names and addresses of approximately 400 physicians (only 73 of these were dues paying members) and one copy of each back issue of Desmoteric News. Everything else had to be created from scratch. Ever since the NCCHC management era began, SCP benefited from having its own staff, thus being able to provide consistent contacts and communications with its members, the public, and other agencies and supporters. 

SCP Newsletters, Web site

The SCP newsletter has had three names. A preliminary issue was edited by member Reginald Jenkins in March of 1993 and was called “Desmoteriatric Medicine”. It carried an article describing Armond Start’s impassioned presentation at the AMA House of Delegates speaking against MD participation in executions in 1992. The rather awkward newsletter name was suggested by Armond, who used “desmo” as meaning ligament or chain. Hence, a physician caring for patients in chains practices desmoteriatric medicine, he said. Later on, “desmoteriatric” was shortened to “desmoteric”, another Armond word.

The first issue of the Desmoteric News was distributed in the summer of 1994. It carried a President’s message by Ron Shansky and a couple of articles of interest to correctional doctors. Ron’s message included his pleasure in noting that “there were 175 members”, (this number may have been optimistic). He emphasized the correctional physician’s professional responsibility in ensuring delivery of quality health care to inmates. He noted that well run correctional health care services were distinguished by a clearly delineated health care authority and, preferably, a physician in charge. He said: “With member support, SCP promises to develop a strong voice in order that our opinions will be heard and our positions will be respected”. The second issue carried articles by Ron Shansky, Fred King, Terrence Flannery, Dianne Rechtine, and Armond Start. The newsletter name changed again to the more euphonic CorrDocs in the spring of 2002, with Volume 6, Issue 2. Three to four issues a year have been published since the beginning, edited by in succession by Joseph Paris, Dean Rieger, Michael Puisis, and Lynn Sander. In 2005 an SCP website evolved and was refined in 2006 and redesigned in 2012.

ACCP presidents

  • Ronald M. Shansky – 1993-1995
  • Peter Lamelas – 1995-1997
  • Roderic Gottula – 1997-1999  (Jim Hipkens was elected president for this period, but never assumed the position. Rod Gottula, who had lost the election by just one vote, was appointed by the Board to fill his seat.)
  • Joseph E. Paris – 1999-2001
  • Anne C. Spaulding – 2001-2003
  • Steven R. Shelton – 2003-2005
  • Lynn F. Sander – 2005-2007
  • Michelle Staples-Horne – 2007-2009
  • Donald Kern – 2009-2011
  • Michael Puerini – 2011 – 2013
  • Rebecca Lubelczyk – 2013-2015
  • Todd Wilcox – 2015-2017
  • Keith Ivens - 2017-2019
  • Juan (Rudy) Nunez - 2019-2021

Armond Start Award

One of the SCP’s most felicitous moves has been the development of the Armond Start Award. The award was created in 1998 at the Fourth SCP Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas. Recipients are selected by a committee of all past presidents, plus the sitting president and the president elect, on the basis of adherence to the highest ethical standards and dedication to research, publication, and training. The first recipient was Ron Shansky in 1999. Other recipients have been: Joseph Paris in 2002, Steven Spencer in 2003, Dianne Rechtine in 2004, John May in 2005, Michael Puisis in 2006.  They were followed by Bob Greifinger in 2007, Anne Spaulding in 2008, Steven Shelton in 2009, Marc Stern in 2010, Lynn Sander in 2011, Michelle Staples-Horne in 2013, Joe Goldenson in 2014, David Thomas in 2015, Dean Rieger in 2016, Warren Ferguson in 2017, and Thomas Lincoln in 2018. The Armond Start is the highest award a correctional physician may receive.

Future challenges

For me, the greatest reward has been seeing the Society grow in numbers and national prominence. SCP is regularly invited to participate in national initiatives such as the CDC’s revision to guidelines for the prevention and control of TB in correctional facilities. While reading over the articles in the now historical initial newsletters describing the founders’ vision of our mission, it was clear to me that we still have a lot of work to do. However, I am sure we will get there. The recent move to create a committee on policy and guidelines is an important step forward which shows that the SCP has graduated beyond the mechanics of running an organization and now is dealing with the important issues that initially prompted its creation.

The ACCP Today

The Society of Correctional Physicians (SCP) has now become the American College of Correctional Physician (ACCP), an identity that we believe better reflects our organization’s mission of promoting professional excellence as well as our vision to pursue and establish the highest ideals and ethical standards in the provision of health services to those who are incarcerated and advance research, education, and training in correctional medicine by academia and government.

Our new identity was formalized at the Annual Educational Conference, October 18, 2015 in Dallas, Tx.

By adopting this new identity, we envision that the ACCP will be perceived as the strong physician organization that supports and provides leadership to our colleagues struggling with the internal and external challenges facing correctional medicine. The ACCP will continue to advocate for our patients and become a nationally recognized voice to speak to non-correctional professional physician organizations.