The incident that inspired Dr. Marcolongo to create IAMAT occurred in a Rome hospital where a young Canadian woman studying music and travelling in Italy was referred to him by a non-English speaking colleague. The patient had a recurring high fever and was suffering from general weakness.
Having interned in Montreal, and being familiar with the English language, Dr. Marcolongo was able to find out from the patient the sequence of events relating to her care. He discovered the cause of her illness: Aminopyrine, a pain relief medication prescribed to her a few weeks earlier, was destroying her white blood cells causing acute leukopenia. After intensive treatment, including blood transfusions, the patient's condition stabilized and she fully recovered.
It turns out that aminopyrine, commonly prescribed in Italy at the time, was harmless to Italians, but harmful to people of Anglo-Saxon descent. Had Dr. Marcolongo not trained in Canada and known about pharmacogenetics – how a person’s genetics affect the body’s response to medication – his prescription would have been identical to that of the first attending physician.
Dr. Marcolongo made the medical needs of travellers his life's work. In an era of increasing international travel, he understood that there was a need for collaboration among medical practitioners around the world to help travellers. To this end, he contacted hundreds of doctors of all nationalities trained according to international health standards and coordinated their services into IAMAT.
From the outset, IAMAT's goal was to coordinate medical services worldwide for travellers and to prepare them for their journey. Dr. Marcolongo believed that this information should be available at no cost to travellers. We are proud that donations from IAMAT members allow us to continue our programs and projects in the spirit of generosity and dedication of our Founder.
When the relations of people are expressed in terms of cooperation and human endeavour, we become conscious and deeply aware that we belong to each other. With the progress of technology, and the consequent increase in communications, people are no longer confined within the boundaries of their own country. In view of the medical aspects involved in travel, it was obvious that an active cooperation among physicians throughout the world was required.
In 1960, we coordinated the services of doctors into the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers. Distinguished physicians and respected medical institutions, with a sense of solidarity which makes them like one family, are now working in harmony to assist the traveller who may require medical assistance in his journey.
The international nature of travel demands closer relationships of mutual collaboration. In the era which the human family is now entering, we must overcome the barriers that still divide us. To decipher these signs of the times is to add a new dimension to one's mind. The need for peace and understanding between the peoples of the world has never been as great as now. Peace can come only with understanding, and travel is an important means of acquiring it. It is, however, only through the full consciousness of "the essence of the human" that we shall be able to open the difficult paths of international relationships.
As a traveller you have an excellent opportunity to serve your country and the world in creating ties of friendship. To you, therefore, we bring this message, a message sparked with beauty all its own: "The search for the human".
- Vincenzo Marcolongo, MD, DTM
March 6, 1922 - February 2, 1988
We celebrated our 55 th anniversary in 2015. Our members shared their travel stories and photos to celebrate this milestone.
Last reviewed and updated: October 25, 2016