Possible merger of the SOMW and the Society of Apothecaries


The SOMW committee has been considering the possibility of a merger with the Society of Apothecaries (SoA).

This has considerable advantages on both sides. The SoA already has a Faculty of the History and Philosophy of Medicine and Medical Ethics but would very much like to incorporate the work SOMW does in order to create an overall medical humanities division. Dr David Misselbrook, a member of SOMW, has for a long time been deeply involved in the SoA.

For SOMW, a merger would bring a reduction in members’ subscription (with no extra charges); a permanent physical home; a meeting-place that was always free of charge; and the prestige that comes with being a part of a Livery Company with a Royal Charter. It would almost certainly boost our membership, and also remove much of the financial concerns that smaller societies perennially have.

What are the downsides? We don’t think there are many. SOMW would need to be renamed as a division of the SoA; theoretically we would lose our independence (though in practical terms the SoA style seems very much ‘hands-off’, so we would in practice be free to continue much as we are at the moment).  We would lose our full SOMW committee, instead nominating two or three people to the medical humanities committee of the SoA.  There would be nothing to stop us having a small ‘SOMW’ subcommittee if we so desired.

We would still be able to run conferences in all parts of the country. The financial resources of the SoA mean we don’t have to be quite as concerned about the possibilities of any one venture making a loss (though the SoA clearly would not want to approve ventures that looked likely to become loss-making).

We still have to work out what would happen regarding Fellowship of the SOMW; and we still have to make plans about how we would produce The Writer in its physical form in view of the costs involved. (There is no question of The Writer not continuing.)

SOMW and the SoA are in the very earliest stages of discussion here: both sides are interested in taking soundings and seeing what our members feel.

SOMW members may like to view the Society of Apothecaries’ website at http://www.apothecaries.org/ and their lecture schedule for their Faculty of the History and Philosophy of Medicine and Pharmacy.

If you have observations either for or against this possible merger, please let us know, either by writing to the SOMW chairman, Dr Dorothy Crowther, or else by posting a comment on the SOMW listserver.

Finally, at our recent AGM, the SOMW membership present voted overwhelmingly to nominate three committee members – our Chair Dorothy Crowther, the Deputy Chair John Lockley and the past editor of The Writer Julian Randall, to form a negotiating team to meet with representatives from the SoA in order to explore the possibilities, advantages and disadvantages of a merger — in structured fashion and in detail. The negotiating team will then report back to the committee and thence to the membership. We intend to take things slowly and carefully, make soundings, discuss, and finally present our findings and suggestions to all SOMW members.