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Moments in Surgical History |

American Surgical Association

Ira M. Rutkow, MD, MPH, DRPH
Arch Surg. 2000;135(7):872. doi:10.1001/archsurg.135.7.872.
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FROM A HISTORICAL perspective, the importance of the American Surgical Association and its founding in 1880, was that it represented the first attempt to bring together on a national level, admittedly in a small number, men of great professional stature whose reputations and deeds marked them as surgeons. To assure that its intentions were well publicized, the organization made certain that a record of its annual meeting was published in the form of bound transactions that could be easily disseminated. Since separation between surgical specialties did not yet exist in the United States, the only criterion for membership was simply that a physician have a "name" as a surgeon; not an orthopedic surgeon, not a urologic surgeon, not a gynecologic surgeon, but simply, a "surgeon." Not surprisingly, the formation of the nation's first surgical organization was adamantly opposed by the American Medical Association (founded in 1847) on the grounds that the new society would detract from its Section on Surgery. When Samuel Gross (1805-1884) welcomed the members to their second meeting in 1882, he commented:

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The 1905 meeting of the American Surgical Association took place on July 5-7 at the Hotel St Francis, San Francisco, Calif. This was to be the organization's first conclave west of St Louis, Mo, and since the annual session of the American Medical Association was to be held a few days later in Portland, Ore, the many surgeon and physician members of both organizations decided to reserve a "Special Overland Limited Train" to transport them from Chicago, Ill, to San Francisco. It was the height of sumptuous rail travel, and a colored brochure and itinerary was specially issued by the Chicago, Union Pacific, and North Western Line for the occasion. The round-trip rate, inclusive of the stopover in Portland, was $67.50. A sleeping car was an additional $14 for a double berth, $39.50 for a compartment, and $53 for a drawing room (Courtesy of the Historical Collections, College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa).

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