This year ACMT turns 25! In addition to special recognition at the Annual Scientific Meeting, founding members will be contributing to the newsletter explaining an interesting tidbit from the past and/or observations of how things have changed since 1993.
By Leslie Dye, MD, FACMT
Having just finished my fellowship in 1992, I was slated to take the last ABMT exam in Tampa in 1993. I studied for about a month solid and was so worried that I went to the meeting hotel early to cram some more. I scheduled a massage the night before, which was a total waste of time. I was not going to relax until the exam was over. The exam consisted of 3 parts - multiple choice, short answer, and a “practical” portion. The multiple-choice part was first and was pretty straightforward. Lewis Goldfrank was proctoring the short answer part, and when I asked him “what does short answer mean - one word, two words, etc?” He said, “It is more of a concept.” The worst part of all was the “practical” part, where we had to walk around and look at images, rashes, etc. and answer questions. The GCMS readouts were particularly entertaining. And the receptor drawings were even better - I would walk up and see the receptor and be psyched that I knew what agents affected said receptors. But none of the agents I knew were options! And there was a sniffing bar with outlandish questions! Had I thought the chemicals in the vials were true poisons, I would have ingested them all right there! The exam finally ended and I headed to the bar certain that I did not pass. For the ABMT exam, they graded it right away and had the results the day after the exam. They told us to check our hotel mailbox to get the results.
With the suspense building, it is important to realize that the ABMT business meeting was this dark, mysterious gathering of the Idols of Toxicology. No one was permitted to attend, except ABMT full members (those who already passed the grueling exam). There were tales of arguments and vitriol flying in the meeting of these august members. Not only would my ego be wounded if I didn’t pass, but I wouldn’t be able to get into that meeting!
Fortunately, I passed the exam. Dr. Goldfrank confirmed that the “practical” portion was not my best work. But I did it. So I could go into the meeting!!! The meeting room didn’t have enough chairs, so I sat on the floor (I was much more flexible then). One of the first orders of business was to officially disband ABMT. I waited all those years and had to take this painful exam? Hence the birth of ACMT and the rest is history. Medical Toxicology became an official recognized sub-specialty by the American Board of Medical Subspecialties and I also was informed I would be permitted to take the new exam in 1994! Our specialty has come such a long way, but we have a long way to go. Hopefully, in my lifetime, the medical and lay community will all know what medical toxicologists do.
I had no idea that when I passed that exam that the future would bring great friendships and confirmation that the specialty I chose was perfect for me. I also had no idea that ACMT would become such a huge part of my life. For a while I was a little resentful that members that had not passed the exam were permitted into our meetings, but now I am happy for the increased participation.