William and Caroline Mark
The seed money necessary to establish the group was given to us by Mr. William B. Mark through the A. Ward Ford Institute. Mr. Mark died in October, 1980, and each year the A. Ward Ford Foundation presents an award in his honor to the individual considered by the Awards Committee of the Society to have made an outstanding contribution to laser medicine. The first of these awards was presented in 1982 to Dr. Goldman at the Annual Conference at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
It was the dream of the founders that this organization be unique and include in addition to physicians/clinicians, outstanding research individuals in the areas of biophysics, biochemistry, biomedical engineering, laser biology and laser safety. There was also a small group of individuals from industry included in the original charter membership. The idea was an immediate success with the Society showing a growth rate of approximately 40% per year during the first eight years with a steady increase in the number and size of commercial exhibits at the Annual Conferences.
From the beginning, the board established the fact that education both for physicians and the lay public should be a prime objective and asked their "Committee on Standards of Training and Practice" to formulate guidelines to aid hospital and clinic staffs in the area of credentialing. At the same time, it was decided that the Society itself would not be an active participant in the credentialing procedure. Another committee involved with post graduate education established additional guidelines for those wishing to develop laser short courses. Their recommendations were quite specific both as to the various levels of complexity and also for the suggested content at each level.
At the time of the organization of the Society two of its members Drs. Billie Aronoff and Eugene Friedman were co-editing a successful laser journal, Lasers in Surgery and Medicine, published by Alan R. Liss of New York. This publication has continued to be the official organ of the Society, published by Wiley Publishing, under the current editorship of Dr. Brian J.F. Wong.
Membership in the Society has grown at a steady pace from 150 in 1981 to 4,366 at the end of 2015. The home office has remained in Wausau, Wisconsin, with a staff of 10 employees.