The first organization dedicated to fighting rheumatic disease was the International League Against Rheumatism (ILAR), founded in 1928 under the guidance of a Dutch national, Dr. Jan van Breemen.
Interest in rheumatology quickly spread throughout the American continent, and the American Association for the Study and Control of Rheumatism met in Cleveland, for what they regarded as their first official meeting in 1934. This cumbersome title was changed in 1937 to the American Rheumatism Association (ARA). In 1985, the ARA formally separated from the Arthritis Foundation, with which it had merged in 1965, and renamed itself the American College of Rheumatology. To the south, Aníbal Ruiz Moreno, MD, founder of the Argentine League Against Rheumatism in 1937, and Prof. Fernando Herrera Ramos, founder of its Uruguayan counterpart in 1939, duly incorporated them to ILAR.
In 1941, Dr. Ruiz Moreno said, “Rheumatologists are a fraternity bound by science and heart.” Together with Dr. Herrera Ramos, Dr. Ruiz Moreno submitted the idea of an ILAR regional league to Ralph Pemberton, then president of ILAR. In 1942, by request of Pemberton, the ARA accepted the proposal set forth by the South American doctors.
A committee comprising doctors Russell Cecil, Robert Osgood, Ralph Boots, Loring Swain, Paul Holbrook and future Nobel Prize winner Philip Hench gave its final agreement and, soon afterward, with support from physicians in Canada, Chile, Brazil and Mexico, a path had been cleared to the creation of a society that grouped all rheumatologists in the continent. The committee suggested the creation of a provisional board to draw its charter, with Ruiz Moreno as president, Herrera Ramos as secretary, Richard Freyberg, from the U.S., as vice president and Wallace Graham, from Canada, as treasurer.
On May 31, 1944, after two years of hard work by the committee, numerous communications and under a bright spring sun, the Pan-American League for the Study and Control of Rheumatic Disease came into existence. A few days later, its name would be changed to the Pan-American League Against Rheumatism (PANLAR). A month later, Loring T. Swain, the first person to hold the position of secretary, announced its foundation to the medical community in the U.S. and abroad. In a letter addressed to the editor of JAMA, he wrote: “On June 15, I received a letter from Dr. Aníbal Ruiz Moreno of Buenos Aires, who has been chosen as the provisional director of the PANLAR committee, duly signaling that our Pan-American league is a reality.”