‘The beginnings of any organization are important, for on them rests the future’ Mildred Elison, President of WCPT in 1953
Given that the 17th WCPT congress in Singapore begins on 1 May 2015 and runs for four days, I thought it might be timely to remember the first congress and reflect on what has changed and what has stayed the same.
The first WCPT Congress was held 62 years ago in London and ran from 7-12 September 1953.
There were 25 countries represented at the conference, and each day focused on a different clinical theme: physical therapy in neuromuscular disorders; rheumatic diseases; diseases of the chest; rehabilitation of injured war veterans; physical therapy in industry. There was also a day devoted to ‘Physical therapists on Treatment and Research.’
The congress began on Sunday 6 September with a religious (Anglican) service at St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Cathedral, and the opening ceremony the following day at which the Minister of Health – Rt. Hon. Iain McLeod spoke. There were speeches from Sir Harry Platt, then President of the CSP; Miss W. M. McAllister, First Vice-President of WCPT; Lord Webb-Johnson, past president of the Royal College of Surgeons, Medicine and Occupational Therapy; Lord Horder, President of the International Federation of Physical Medicine; Mrs S. Coleridge, Second Vice-President of WCPT; and finally, Miss Mildred Elison, WCPT President.
The symbol of the congress, ‘an illuminated revolving globe of the world, was highlighted, [and] these words were spoken:’
Let the spirit of the Congress be a willingness to serve and a sense of just enjoyment, for happiness and health are next of kin, and, from true faith in a Creator, comes willingness to help a neighbour, content of mind and peace to men.
The formal business of the conference included eight lectures, all given by doctors, including Herman Kabat, Sir Clement Price Thomas and F. S. Cooksey. There were three demonstrations on ante-natal training, breathing exercise classes and recreational rehabilitation for lower limb injuries, all given by physiotherapists.
There were also 13 papers given by physical therapists: three from Sweden; two from Norway, Great Britain and Denmark; and one from physical therapists from South Africa, USA, Australia, and the recently divided West Germany.
26 hospital departments and rehabilitation centres opened themselves to visitors from the congress, including most of the major London hospitals and the retraining shop and physiotherapy department of Vauxhall Motors in Luton.
The conference closed with a dinner at the Park Lane Hotel in Piccadilly, and after the speeches and the meal came ‘a display of Scottish dancing…[which] in turn was followed by ballroom dancing until 1 A.M.’
Footnote from the September 1952 edition of Physiotherapy, in preparation for the 1953 Congress:
The Brighton Branch [of the CSP] has given £50 as a part of the proceeds of a most successful Garden Party and Bring-and-Buy Sale held in Miss Gertrude Cadman’s garden. The hard work and good organization of Miss Cadman herself were a major contribution in raising this substantial sum.
Students at Dublin School of Physiotherapy have raised £1 12s. by the sale of ‘country produce’ – Which sounds a delightful way of raising money and might well be imitated (p.167).
Source: Published proceedings of the First Congress of the WCPT, published by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, London, 1953.