The Society of Pelvic Surgeons

The Society of Pelvic Surgeons

The Society of Pelvic Surgeons The Society of Pelvic Surgeons


The Society of Pelvic Surgeons was established by a group of widely respected surgeons in the U.S. who had been making an effort to improve surgical training for the gynaecologist. The American College of Surgeons, through the early to mid 1900s, had advised that hospitals should require the medical graduate to have completed at least 3 years of residency training in general surgery before being given surgical privileges. Most gynaecologic surgeons of that era were trained as general surgeons or in formal gynaecology residencies.

The American Board of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, originally certifying trainees in either speciality, moved in the late 1930s- early 1940s to one form of certification and planned to drop training programs that did not comply. The three year program specified 18 months of obstetrics and 18 months of gynaecology. No general surgery was required. Prominent senior surgeons aggressively and repeatedly appealed to the ABOG, unsuccessfully, for the requirement of at least one year of general surgical training. During that time great advances in anaesthesia, blood banking, antibiotics and other developments expanded the arena of safety for extended surgical procedures.

The first organizational meeting of the Society was held on Saturday, December 13 1952 at The Memorial Hospital, New York, hosted by Alexander Brunschwig. Joe V. Meigs was elected as the first president. Both men, general surgeons by training, had focused their work on gynaecologic cancer. Brunschwig had pioneered pelvic exenteration and Meigs had defined the anatomy and technique of the radical hysterectomy. These two men are considered the co-founders of the Society. The majority of the Founding Members were engaged in a gynaecologic surgical practice. In addition there was Eugene Bricker who had pioneered pelvic exenteration for advanced rectal cancer and two urologists, Victor Marshall and Fletcher Colby, who also recognized that pelvic surgery often extended beyond defined specialty lines.

The group initially met twice a year and new members were added very selectively. Initially the new members were respected contemporaries, then favourite trainees. Little by little, non-U.S. surgeons were added, initially as Foreign Corresponding Members. The continued growth of the organization, into the second, even the third generation, followed the same pattern of mentor-trainee, thus inspiring its unique character: mutual respect among members and a cherished respect for tradition. In short, this is a Society developed by leaders of our three specialties, who appreciated the merits of broad-based surgical education, who gave witness to this education by a spectrum of diverse surgical skills, of surgical contributions, and of surgical education; and who had, within the forum of this Society, the great capacity to both criticise and respect one another.

Richard C. Boronow, M.D., Historian, May 2008.

For further information: George W. Morley: "How it all got started", November 1984; Clyde L. Randall: "The Society of Pelvic Surgeons: Provocation and Genesis", October 1988.