The International Federation of Societies for Hand Therapy (IFSHT) was formed as a result of the participation of hand therapists in the First Congress of the International Federation of Societies for Surgery of the Hand (IFSSH) in the Netherlands in 1980. Invited by Dr Alfred Swanson, therapists presented papers at a combined surgeons' and therapists' meeting. In 1983, hand therapists participated in the Second Congress of IFSSH in Boston, Massachusetts, USA and again in Japan at the Third Congress in 1986.
In December, shortly after that congress, a group of therapists met during the GEMMSOR meeting in Paris, France. Encouraged by Doctors Raoul Tubiana and Yves Allieu from France and Dr Georgio Brunnelli from Italy, the IFSHT was founded with an initial membership of twelve countries. Credit for the major portion of essential groundwork must be given to the first generation of Hand Therapists. These include Judy Bell-Krotowski, Wim Brandsma, Judy Colditz, Philippe Chamagne, Roslyn Evans, Elaine Fess, Victoria Frampton, Jean Claude Rouzaud, Dominique Thomas, Corrianne van Velze.
The First International Congress of IFSHT was held in Tel Aviv, Israel in April 1989, Evelyn Mackin, USA, taking the Presidential Chair, with Jean-Claude Rouzaud, France, appointed the Secretary General. The first Council meeting of IFSHT was held on 13th April 1989 and was attended by delegates from Australia, Belgium, Great Britain, Italy, Israel, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa and USA, with observers from Taiwan and the Netherlands
The Federation continued to grow and by May 1992 when the Second Congress of IFSHT was held in Paris, five more countries had also joined. The Third Congress was held in July 1995 in Helsinki, Finland, followed three years later by the Fourth Congress held in Vancouver, Canada.
At the 2004 IFSHT congress, all the past presidents were present and this picture was taken. From the left: Annette Leveridge, Corianne van Velze, Victoria Framtpton, Jean Claude Rouzzaud and Evelin Mackin.
IFSHT continues to grow. Opportunities for networking between member countries, news-letters, education and exchange visits help to advance the specialty of hand therapy throughout the world and to form and cement friendships and collaboration between members.
The 7th IFSHT triennial congress took place in Sydney, Australia, in 2007 with a record attendance of 513 therapists representing 32 countries. At the IFSHT council meeting in Sydney, Maggi Persson of Sweden concluded her term as president and Judy Colditz, of the USA stepped into the role of president of IFSHT. The 8th IFSHT congress and council meeting was held in 2010 in Orlando, Florida, USA where 450 therapists from 36 countries met to exchange information and update their knowledge and skills in Hand Therapy. Lynne Feehan of Canada, assumed the presidency of IFSHT.
In 2004 at the 6th IFSHT Congress, the IFSHT Silent Auction took place for the first time at the initiation of the Executive Committee and Judy Bell Krotoski. Many people donated items for this event and the items were then auctioned one evening of the congress. The funds raised by the auction are directed towards supporting therapists to attend and speak at the next IFSHT Congress. Funding requests from therapists from countries with a low GNI are given priority. The Silent Auction started in 2004 has become a tradition and took place again in 2007, 2010 and 2013. Each time the number of donated items has grown as have the proceeds from this event.
In 2012, IFSHT was registered as a non-profit organisation in Switzerland
In 2013, the 9th IFSHT congress was held in Delhi, India alongside the IFSSH congress. Sarah Ewald was elected President of IFSHT with Anne Wajon, of Australia, voted President Elect.