The Tokyo Accords, Kaiser Permanente and the genesis of the American Medical Informatics Associationposted on June 28, 2010
by Bryan Culp
You may have heard the news this spring that every Kaiser Permanente medical facility is now equipped with KP HealthConnect®. KP has the largest private sector electronic health record implementation in the world.
What may come as a surprise is that KP has been for half-century a leader in medical informatics –the theory, practice and “dynamo” behind today’s health e-connectivity.
Thirty years ago leading informaticians gathered in Tokyo, Japan, for the congress “MEDINFO 80.” Medical informatics was a young discipline, and Tokyo was the site of the third congress. The two previous congresses convened in Stockholm (1974) and Toronto (1977). KP physicians participated in all three. Our founding physician, Dr. Sidney Garfield, delivered a paper at the first congress in Stockholm.
What made the Tokyo congress different? It was the first of the congresses to be organized by the new International Medical Informatics Association (IHEA), the formation of this mostly-European-in-membership society from a parent organization (the International Federation for Information Processing) was a sign that the field of medical informatics was maturing.
Second, Tokyo was the first of the world congresses to have significant U.S. involvement. Kaiser Permanente’s pioneer in medical informatics, Morris F. Collen, MD, was the program chair and Donald A. B. Lindberg, MD, then at the University of Missouri at Columbia was the editor of the proceedings. Participants from the United States delivered 51 papers in Tokyo on subjects ranging from computer-based medical records to computer-aided decision support.
By way of background, in 1980 there were two medical informatics associations in the United States with less than 500 members each: the Society of Computer Medicine (SCM) and the Society for Advanced Medical Systems (SAMS). Each convened separate annual meetings and each held board members in common. And because there was some duplication of effort within them, there grew within each the conviction that the field in the U.S. would be served if the two societies merged.
At Tokyo, Dr. Marion Ball a director of Computer Systems at Temple University and president-elect of SCM, and Dr. Ben Williams, the president of SAMS, formed an ad hoc meeting of members and boards to discuss “common interests and possible common future activities.” Dubbed the “Tokyo Accords” by Williams, in these meetings lay the genesis of the American Medical Informatics Association.
The enthusiasm generated in Tokyo resulted in the First Congress of the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA Congress 82) held in San Francisco in 1982. The congress was organized by Dr. Collen and was sponsored by the Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, with SAMS, SCM, and IHEA and other co-sponsors. Concurrently in the months preceding and following the congress, the American Medical Informatics Association grew up with the expressed purpose “to advance the field of medical informatics in the United States.”
So when the Kaiser Permanente Thrive ad “Connected” airs on your local station, remember the medical informatics congresses that convened in Tokyo and San Francisco over thirty years ago, and the foresight of the KP leadership to nurture the emerging field of medical informatics.
Click on the arrow to watch “Connected.”
Henry Kaiser’s Respect for People of All Races Dates from African-American Worker Who Was One of First Employees Ever Hiredposted on June 15, 2010
By Tom Debley
Director of Heritage Resources
Little Edgar Kaiser, 5, would call out to a gregarious black laborer named James A. Shaw with those words.
Jimmy Shaw would hoist the lad up onto his shoulders and carry the boy, all the while raking asphalt on a road-building project for Edgar’s father, Henry J. Kaiser.
The year was 1913. The site was a work camp where the toddler would often live, sleeping in a car or a tent, with his parents, Henry and Bess Kaiser. Little Edgar’s affection for riding on Shaw’s shoulders, calling out “Tote, Tote!” when he’d see Shaw, earned Jimmy the nickname “Tote,” or sometimes “Totem,” for the rest of his life.
This was in the early years of Henry Kaiser’s fledgling road-building business—long before he became the great 20th century industrialist who gained fame building highways, dams, and World War II ships.
And Totem Shaw’s story, as recorded in historic archives, helps shed light on both Henry and Edgar Kaiser’s later reputations as businessmen who understood the value of workforce diversity and, in their personal lives, moved beyond racial divides decades before the rest of the country.
Born in 1879, Shaw was not quite two years older than Henry J. and represents the earliest documented friendship between the Kaisers and a person of African heritage. Shaw’s is a powerful story that helps explain why Henry Kaiser was open to hiring minority workers.
Shaw was Kaiser’s first black employee, hired several years before Kaiser even formed his own company. He actually was hired by A. B. Ordway, Kaiser’s very first employee, when they were working for another company paving part of Post Street in Spokane, Wash., about 1909. Kaiser was general superintendent and Ordway was foreman.
One day Shaw walked up to the Post Street paving gang and asked Ordway for a job. According to Gordon Barteau, a Portland Oregonian newspaper reporter who wrote a profile of Shaw in 1943, “Ordway sized Tote up and said he thought Tote looked kind of runty for a job like that.”
In a style reminiscent of Kaiser himself, Shaw offered to work for free for a week on trial.
“Well … the first day he wore out two men and the next day Ordway told him he was on the payroll,” the Oregonian reported.
“Tote” worked in a variety of jobs on just about every big Kaiser project – from road building in Cuba to the Grand Coulee Dam, the Vancouver Shipyards in World War II, and the Kaiser steel mill in Fontana, Calif., before he retired. It was during the war years in Vancouver, according to Barteau’s article, that whenever Henry Kaiser “comes to town he always looks up Tote and they hash over the old days.”
Clearly, it was Shaw’s relationship with Edgar and his ability as a skilled laborer with problem-solving skills that made him a lifelong, unforgettable friend of Henry Kaiser.
During construction of the original Highway 99 between Redding and Red Bluff in Northern California, in 1921, Kaiser was having trouble keeping a muddy detour open. He’d sent in a work crew of six men, and they had failed.
Kaiser summoned Shaw. “Tote,” he said, “every truck on the job is stuck in the mud. …You go down there and see what you can do.”
Shaw grabbed an axe, a pick, and a shovel. In short order, he had all of the trucks out of the mud and running.
“How did you do it?” Kaiser asked him.
“Mr. Kaiser,” he replied, “when you do things, you mixes brains and money. Well, sir, I mixes mud and brains.”
“Kaiser loved the phrase,” wrote one of his biographers, Mark Foster. “It became a company slogan.”
Shaw lived his final years in Fontana. They had a big party for him when turned 85 in 1964. In addition to cards, gifts, and a huge birthday cake, a teletype arrived from the giant Kaiser Industries headquarters in Oakland—birthday greetings from A. B. Ordway, who had known “Tote” since the day he had walked up to Ordway on Post Street in Spokane and asked for a job.
By Ginny McPartland
The National Park Service Home Front Award is to recognize people, projects, programs or publications that preserve a home front site or structure, or that promote recognition and understanding of the WWII era in Richmond’s and the nation’s history.
The purpose of the city’s historic awards program is to increase public awareness of Richmond’s heritage by recognizing individuals, organizations, businesses and agencies whose contributions demonstrate outstanding commitment to excellence in historic preservation, local history or promotion of the city’s heritage.