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Formed in 1974, the International Society for the Study of the Lumbar Spine (ISSLS) was both international and multidisciplinary from its inception.  The ‘spirit’ of the society, articulated in its By-Laws, included three specific guidelines:

  1. Members should be involved in some research aspect of the lumbar spine, rather than being totally consumed with clinical work.
  2. Individuals from the basic sciences, engineering and various medical specialities should be encouraged to participate in the society as active members, with full rights; there would be no associate members or second-class citizens.
  3. Members should demonstrate an ongoing and continued special interest in the lumbar spine.

The scientific program of the first annual meeting included papers from a number of world authorities on the lumbar spine, from Great Britain, Canada, United States, Scandinavia and Australia. Of the 35 papers presented, nine were concerned with spinal mechanics, six were on basic science and fewer than one third of the papers were related to surgical treatment.  A truly multi-disciplinary and international meeting.

The catalyst for the formation of ISSLS was the coming together of surgeons from different parts of the world at meetings in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Between 1972 and 1974, Drs Alan Dwyer, Harry Farfan, Lee Wiltse and Michael Sullivan, amongst others, were increasingly keen to form an international lumbar spine society. There was a belief that “at least 15 people in the world would be prepared to come together to discuss the lumbar spine”.  When ISSLS’ first meeting convened in June of 1974 in Montreal, Canada, the participants numbered 135, well in excess of the 15 thought to be realistic in 1972.

In the nearly 50 years since its creation, the multidisciplinary and international nature of ISSLS continues; membership has grown to more than 350 and attendance at annual meetings is consistently in region of 400. 

The legacy of the group of clinicians, scientists and engineers who established ISSLS, is the continuation of their collective vision for the future: to encourage lumbar spine research through international and interdisciplinary collaboration. Its uniqueness is celebrated each year at the ISSLS Annual Meeting and nurtured through the ISSLS Fellowship and Awards program.

ISSLS wishes to acknowledge and thank Professor Robert Fraser (ISSLS President, 2002), whose Presidential Address provided the information contained on this page.

Presidential address – Robert Fraser 2004