“I am ready to be relieved”

relieving the watch“I am ready to be relieved” – thus a Navy Officer of the Deck transfers authority, after his successor has intoned “I relieve you, sir.”

Six years ago, I launched the Society for the History of Navy Medicine at the prompting of Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery historian André Sobocinski. André’s enthusiastic support and guidance helped make the early navigation sure.

Three years later, in February 2010, I floated this blog as a means of promoting the Society and garnering it attention in a larger world. Given the narrow confines of our little corner of the world of history, I think the blog has done well: 155 posts, more than 31,575 views, and 12 –>18 –> 40+ average views a day. In fact, when you consider that the typical academic journal article – I read somewhere – gets an average of 3 readers total, we’ve done very well indeed!

But, come 25 April, the conn and the helm of this enterprise will pass to a new, young, energetic Executive Director, Jim Dolbow. Jim will introduce himself here and on the Society website in the near future.

It’s been a wonderful cruise!

The Society has grown to around 170 members from around the world. We’ve mounted academic panels – thanks both to enthusiastic writers and a wonderful panel of academics who’ve served as our Papers Selection Board* – at annual meetings of the American Association for the History of Medicine (of which the Society is a “Constituent Society”), the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States (AMSUS) and the biennial Naval Academy McMullen History Symposium. We founded a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt public charity to receive our members’ voluntary dues. We use this money to fund a Graduate / Professional Student Travel Grant Program that pays students $750 to give papers that are accepted at our panels. Last year, we initiated a Graduate Student Research Grant Program† that will annually provide up to $1500 in support for research in the area of the history of navy or maritime medicine.

As for the blog, when I go back over those 155 postings, I think some of them are actually pretty darned good! One interesting thing, though: my “opinion pieces”, which are simply that – opinion – typically have gotten twice to thrice the readership of the “historical” ones – those that I really labored over, performing decent research and providing proper footnoting. I don’t know if this says more about our readership, or about my historical writing! In any case, I come away from the blogging endeavor  with a high respect for those professional writers who have to meet weekly – or worse, daily – deadlines. I felt the weekly demand quite literally sucking whatever waning creativity I had right out of my brain! I will be glad to knock these exertions down several notches!

So what does the future hold for a semi-salty old (I’ll be 70 on 25 April) doc?

A sprint, that’s what!

First, I’ll take my blogging – at a much more leisurely pace – to my personal website, www.thomaslsnyder.com. What I really want to do is complete writing my history of the Naval Hospital at Mare Island. Other historical projects include the Navy’s World War II V-12 Medical Program of accelerated medical (degree in 3 years vice 4) training; and of the roughly 75 hospitals the Navy created “for the purpose” during World War II, most of which virtually instantly disappeared soon after the war’s end; and my personal favorite, a creative surgical solution for a naval person destined for great fame.

But there’s more! In April 2014, I will assume the mantle of President of the Albany Medical College Alumni Association for two years. I am the first from west of the Hudson River (conceptually, anyway!) so selected. This is my medical alma mater’s recognition that it now has a national reach, with roughly 40% of its graduates living and practicing in the west. First among my presidential projects will be to create a robust network of class liaisons in order to develop a tighter bond between our alumni and the medical school. Here’s my motivation: medical education is immensely expensive and medical schools need large endowments to fund scholarships, professorships, research and capital investment. True, Albany Med’s endowment has recently grown – due in large part to efforts of the marvelously gregarious but very quality-serious Dean Vince Verdile – to around $140 million. But contrast that with Stanford Med, for example, which draws on an endowment of ~$1.4 billion. A reasonable goal for Albany Med, I’m told, is in the range of $400 -500 million. From an Alumni Association point of view, that’s a big challenge. But in collaboration with Maura Mack-Hisgen and her crew in the Alumni Office, Dean Verdile, and Terri Cerveny and her Office of Development outfit, we shall continue to build by steps – with purpose…

Then, I’m queued to take – late in 2015 – a two-year assignment as the national leader of an ancient (by U. S. standards, anyway) naval historical establishment which shall remain nameless until my appointment is made official. Here, if confirmed, I aim to be “the historical leader”, promoting “public history”, or “historical outreach” to the larger community by members of this much smaller, focused, organization.

So, come 2018, after this extended but no doubt exciting deployment, I’ll be – well and truly – ready to settle down to read and write history!

One key point: I could not have done any of this without the completely selfless,  inspired, and even genius support of my sweetheart, the mother of my two fine sons, the love of my life, my very best friend and the center of my world – Gina Snyder.


* Our Papers Selection Board, since its inception, has benefited from the dedicated expertise of  Professor Annette Finley-Croswhite (Old Dominion University), Jan Herman (now-Emeritus Historian of the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery), and Professor Harry Langley (Emeritus, Catholic University; Emeritus Docent of the Navy Collection, Smithsonian Institution).

† Our Research Grant Selection Board members are Professors John Beeler (University of Alabama), Chris McKee (Emeritus, Grinnell) and Jennifer Telford (University of Connecticut)

©2013 Thomas L Snyder

About thomaslsnyder

Retired urological surgeon and navy reservist. Writing the history of the Navy's first hospital on the U S west coast, at Mare Island, California. Founder and Executive Director, the Society for the History of Navy Medicine. Founder and Coordinator of the Albany Base Hospital No. 33 Society, a military affinity group at Albany Medical College, my alma mater. Past Commander of the San Francisco Commandery of the Naval Order of the United States and founder and past Commander of the Naval Order's "virtual" Continental Commandery. Naval Order Ship's Store manager and Assistant Treasurer General. Member of the Solano County (California) Historical Records Commission.
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1 Response to “I am ready to be relieved”

  1. southpoledoc says:


    Thanks for all your hard work! Best wishes for continued success!

    Warm regards,
    Dale Mole’, CAPT MC USN (RET)

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