A Brief History of the ISN

The International Society of Nephrology (ISN) was created in 1960 following the 1st International Congress of Nephrology held that year in Geneva (Switzerland) and Evian-les-Bains (France). It was founded thanks to the vision of Professor Jean Hamburger, who became the ISN’s Founder and first President. 

Since its early days, the ISN has focused on advancing worldwide education, science, and patient care in nephrology. In recent years, more members have joined from emerging countries meaning membership has grown to 10,000, reflecting a truly international community.

Given the geographic representation of the first ISN members, meetings were designed for those operating in highly developed academic and clinical centers. Scientific congresses were held within these same developed geographic areas and were targeted almost exclusively at this audience. Sharing scientific and clinical research and updates on society affairs was carried out thanks the Society’s journal Kidney International.

Similarly, the Forefronts Symposia – launched in 1984 – focused on contemporary topics in basic sciences related to nephrology, which were mainly of interest to experts from North America, Europe, Japan and Australasia.

To reach colleagues and patients in less economically-developed countries, the ISN expanded its activities and created specific programs and initiatives aimed at these regions. As a result, the ISN has reached most parts of the world previously deprived of contact with renal science and renal patient care.

Educational programs such as the Fellowship Program and ISN Travel Grants have increased access to ISN congresses. In the mid 1990s, these activities were intensified through the ISN Global Outreach (GO) Programs (formerly known as COMGAN) which helped strengthen all outreach efforts and built many more programs.

More recently, ISN has become increasingly involved in addressing the issue of Chronic Kidney Disease by building partnerships like World Kidney Day, and starting collaborations with related non-renal medical specialties.

Along with a thorough revision of its bylaws, the ISN has recently involved more younger nephrologists in its affairs by offering “In-Training” Memberships and launching the Young Nephrologists Committee.

The ISN and its core mission have evolved to become the only truly “international” society in the renal field. ISN has gone from being a primarily scientific society to providing one of the largest and most efficient global outreach programs of any subspecialty medical society worldwide. Its programs and services serve tens of thousands of renal health care providers across the globe.

ISN is no longer a traditional medical society with traditional member benefits. It has evolved to become a global philanthropic Society, with a clearly stated humanitarian component to its mission. For ISN, fulfilling this part of its mission without sacrificing its role in promoting excellence in renal science will be one of its greatest challenges in the decade ahead.

Click here to see past ISN leadership rosters.


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