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Arthur Asbury Presidential Papers


Held at: Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia [Contact Us]19 S. 22nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

The Office of the President of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia is first described in the 1787 constitution. The constitution states that the President "shall have power to call extraordinary Meetings whenever important, or unexpected Business shall require, of which he shall be the Judge;" the constitution also states that the president was authorized to call a special session when requested by at least six Fellows. According to the 1834 by-laws, the president was responsible for presiding at College meetings and signing orders from the treasurer, but he could not discuss any questions while in the chair except when necessary to come to a decision. This latter regulation was dropped from the 1863 by-laws, and new responsibilities were added in 1882, when the president was given "general supervision of the affairs of the College" and was required to present an annual address.

In 1886, due to the influence of president S, Weir Mitchell, the by-laws were again amended. Mitchell secured the right to be informed of all committee meetings and to attend them if he wished, Another of Mitchell's requests, for a five year presidential term, was never approved. The responsibilities of the president remained much the same until 1914. In the by-laws of this year, the president's duty of "sign[ing] all warrants on the Treasurer" was omitted. 1925 marked a major change in the Office of the President; in this year, he was granted ex-officio membership in all standing committees and had the power to elect most committee members. The first regulation concerning the president's term was instituted in the 1935 by-laws, which state that no president may serve more than three years in a row. Additional changes in the Office of the President did not occur until 1972. The by-laws of this year state that the president must publish his annual address, submit a yearly summary of the activities of the College, and "appoint all standing committees and designate the Chairmen." with the exception of the Nominating committee, The president's term was again restricted in the 1984 bylaws, which state that the president is limited to one two-year term. As of 2020, this is still an active office.

Arthur K. Asbury, Van Meter Professor of Neurology Emeritus, is one of the country's most noted neurologists, recognized for his clinical and experimental studies of peripheral neuropathies, particularly those related to chronic kidney failure, diabetes mellitus, and Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Asbury was born in 1928 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He received his bachelor's degree in agriculture from the University of Kentucky in 1951, and went on to study at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, receiving his M.D. in 1958. His postgraduate training included an internship and residency in medicine, neurology, and neuropathology at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a teaching fellowship at Harvard Medical School. From 1963 to 1965 he held a research and clinical fellowship in neuropathology at MGH and a research fellowship in neuropathology at Harvard Medical School.

In 1969 he was appointed Chief of the Neurology Service at the San Francisco Veteran's Administration Hospital. He had a concurrent appointment as professor of neurology and pathology and Vice Chair of the Department of Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. AT UCSF, he served on the Curriculum Committee and the Faculty Senate Committee on Educational Policy, and taught courses in neuropathology and neurological pathophysiology.

Asbury's tenure at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine began in 1973, when he was appointed Professor of Neurology and named chair of the Department of Neurology, a post he held until 1982. The following year he was appointed as the first Van Meter Professor of Neurology. In addition to his roles as clinician, researcher, and educator, Asbury held a several major administrative posts at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. In 1988 and 1989, he served as Acting Dean and Executive Vice President of the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. In 1990 he was named to a three year term as Vice Dean for Research, and in 1993 he accepted a four year term as Vice Dean for Faculty Affairs. In 2000-2001, Asbury served again as interim Dean of the School of Medicine. He was an invited lecturer or visiting professor at many universities and neurological institutes throughout the country, and he participated in external department reviews of peer institutions' neurology departments.

Asbury has published extensively, with over 200 articles, chapters, and reviews in print. He has written or edited five monographs on peripheral neuropathies, and is one of the editors of the standard reference text in neurology, Diseases of the Nervous System, the third edition of which was published in 2002. He has served on editorial boards of Annals of Neurology, Muscle and Nerve, the Journal of Neurological Sciences, and a number of other journals focused on both research and clinical aspects of neurology. He was Chief Editor of Annals of Neurology from 1984 to 1992, Series Editor of the Blue Books of Practical Neurology from 1981 to 2004, and Presiding Senior Editor of Neurology UpToDate online from 2003 to 2005.

As a leader in neurological organizations, Asbury served as Vice President of the World Federation of Neurology, which sponsors the World Congress of Neurology every four years, and is Past President of the American Neurological Association, the Association of University Professors of Neurology, and the Philadelphia Neurological Society. He is former Chair of the World Federation of Neurology Research Group on Neuromuscular Diseases and currently serves as a trustee of the Monell Chemical Senses Center. He has played a significant part in the governance and administration of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia; he was elected a fellow of the College in 1974 and has been a trustee since 2002. From 2004 to 2006 he served as President of the College and in 2005-2006 he acted as interim CEO.

Asbury's scholarship has been widely recognized. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and has served on the Council of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, London, by distinction. In 2004, the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine established the Arthur K. Asbury Award for Outstanding Faculty Mentoring, to be awarded annually. Other honors include the Daniel Drake Medal of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, in addition to its Distinguished Graduate Award; Honorary Professor of Medical Sciences, Hebei Medical College and Hebei Province, PRC; the I.S. Ravdin Master Clinician Award of the University of Pennsylvania Health System; the Lindback Award of the University of Pennsylvania for Teaching Excellence; Lifetime Achievement Award of the World Federation of Neurology for his work in neuromuscular diseases; the Meritorious Service Award of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia; and Honorary Memberships in the American Neurological Association, the American Academy of Neurology, the American Association of Neuromuscular & Electrodiagnostic Medicine, the Association of British Neurologists, and the European Neurological Society.

Bibliography: University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Smell and Taste Center. Arthur K. Asbury curriculum vitae. Retrieved from

Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers. Speaker's biography for Arthur K. Asbury, MD FRCP. Retrieved from

This collection dates from 2000-2008 and documents Arthur Asbury's time as College President. It contains committee meeting reports and documents, graphic materials such as photos and business cards, documents on governance that include the mission of the College, reports, and strategic planning, and information related to hall and grounds projects during the time of the presidency.

This collection is divided into five series. Series I: Committees, dating from 2000-2007, documents the meetings and activities of, and some correspondence, from 13 committees. The committees in the collection include: Administration, Admissions, Audit, Awards, Development, Finance, Nominations, Program, Real Estate Development, Steering, and Senior Staff. Of note is a complete committees' members list filed under Committees: General.

Series II: Correspondence, dating from 2004-2006, is comprised of correspondence to and from Arthur Asbury, the bulk of which is housed in folders 3-5, and other colleagues and coworkers of the College during his presidency.

Series III: Graphic Materials, undated, contains of photos of Arthur Asbury and his business card.

Series IV: Governance, dating from 2002-2008, covers topics including reduction force, strategic planning, reports, and the mission of the College.

Series V: Hall and Grounds, dating from 2004-2006, includes information on two construction projects during the presidency: the parking lot and the Mütter Museum Renovation. Researchers should note that more documentation on the parking lot project is included in the Allen R. Myers presidential papers collection.

Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
Finding Aid Author
Morgan Rafel
Finding Aid Date
February 2020

Collection Inventory

Committee on Administration, 2002-2005.
Box 1 Folder 1
Committee on Admissions, 2006.
Box 1 Folder 2
Committee on Audit, 2003-2004.
Box 1 Folder 3
Committee on Awards, 2005.
Box 1 Folder 4
Committee on Development (1 of 2), 2000-2002.
Box 1 Folder 5
Committee on Development (2 of 2), 2002-2006.
Box 1 Folder 6
Committee on Finance (1 of 3), 2002-2003.
Box 1 Folder 7
Committee on Finance (2 of 3), 2004-2005.
Box 1 Folder 8
Committee on Finance (3 of 3), 2006.
Box 1 Folder 9
General, 2004-2005.
Box 1 Folder 10
Committee on Nominations, 2003-2007.
Box 2 Folder 1
Committee on Program (1 of 3), 2002-2003.
Box 2 Folder 2
Committee on Program (2 of 3), 2004.
Box 2 Folder 3
Committee on Program (3 of 3), 2004-2006.
Box 2 Folder 4
Real Estate Development Committee, 2005-2006.
Box 2 Folder 5
Steering Committee, 2003.
Box 2 Folder 6
Senior Staff (1 of 2), 2005.
Box 2 Folder 7
Senior Staff (2 of 2), 2005-2006.
Box 3 Folder 1

Correspondence (1 of 5), 2004.
Box 3 Folder 2
Correspondence (2 of 5), 2004-2006.
Box 3 Folder 3
Correspondence (3 of 5), 2004-2005.
Box 3 Folder 4
Correspondence (4 of 5), 2005-2006.
Box 3 Folder 5
Correspondence (5 of 5), 2006.
Box 3 Folder 6

Business Card and Nametag, undated.
Box 3 Folder 7
Photos, undated.
Box 3 Folder 8

General, undated.
Box 3 Folder 9
Reduction Force, 2006.
Box 4 Folder 1
Campaign for the College, 2002-2004.
Box 4 Folder 2
Corporate Outreach, 2002-2004.
Box 4 Folder 3
General, 2002.
Box 4 Folder 4
Mutter Museum, 2003-2008.
Box 4 Folder 5

Mutter Museum Renovation, 2004-2005.
Box 4 Folder 6
Parking Lot, 2004-2006.
Box 4 Folder 7

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