About

IASTAM is an international organisation in the field of Asian medicine making a serious attempt to embrace both academics and practitioners. IASTAM has always sought to give each of these communities a platform for the expression of their views, respecting the integrity of each group while nevertheless privileging the free exchange of knowledge over involvement in any particular commercial interest or therapeutic regime. 

In 1977, Kenneth Zysk, then still a student, raised the idea of an international meeting on Asian Medicine. His professor, the late historian Arthur Llewellyn Basham, willingly took up the idea and in collaboration with the medical anthropologist, Charles Leslie, presented a proposal for such a meeting to members of staff at the Australian National University. It was received enthusiastically and, in 1979, the first International Conference on Traditional Asian Medicine (ICTAM I) was held in Canberra. The story of its organisation was told by the late Professor Basham in the sixth issue of the IASTAM Newsletter in 1985. The conference was a great success with 300 participating members. At its final general meeting, IASTAM was founded, and Charles Leslie accepted the post of Secretary General to IASTAM.

IASTAM’s objective was set to be the promotion and encouragement of the study of traditional Asian medicine, including both the ‘classical’ systems and local traditions, in all their aspects – historical, philosophical, philological, anthropological, sociological, and scientific.

IASTAM’s objective was set to be the promotion and encouragement of the study of traditional Asian medicine, including both the ‘classical’ systems and local traditions, in all their aspects – historical, philosophical, philological, anthropological, sociological, and scientific.

For the following decade, under the energetic guidance of Charles Leslie, IASTAM flourished. It was, and perhaps remains, the only international organisation in the field of Asian medicine making a serious attempt to embrace both academics and practitioners. IASTAM has always sought to give each of these communities a platform for the expression of their views, respecting the integrity of each group while nevertheless privileging the free exchange of knowledge over involvement in any particular commercial interest or therapeutic regime.

Since its inception, IASTAM has held international meetings. From 1994, IASTAM activities moved into a more evolved phase, establishing regional North American, European, and Indian chapters of the organisation, which held separate regional conferences. It has published a regular newsletter and today publishes a successful, peer-reviewed journal dedicated to all aspects of Asian Medicine.

The leadership of IASTAM passed from Basham and Leslie to a succession of scholars and practitioners of international repute, among them, Paul U. Unschuld, Francis Zimmermann, K.N. Udupa, Hakim Mohammed Said, Margaret Lock, Lawrence I. Conrad, Dominik Wujastyk, Waltraud Ernst, Vivienne Lo, Marta Hanson and Volker Scheid.

In 1986 Professor Basham, passed away. Given his status as the organisations IASTAM’s founder, a prize medal was instituted in his honour. The Basham medal has subsequently been awarded to scholars in recognition of outstanding work done in the field of Asian Medicine (see more below).

In 2009, on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of IASTAM, the Charles Leslie Prize was instituted, this time in recognition of an outstanding essay by a junior scholar or practitioner.