About Us | ASCRS

About Us

The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons

The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons is the premier society for colon and rectal surgeons and other surgeons dedicated to advancing and promoting the science and practice of the treatment of patients with diseases and disorders affecting the colon, rectum and anus. More than 2,000 of the Society's 3,800 members are certified by the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery.

We believe in patient-centered, high-quality, high-value health care. We achieve this care through professionalism, unique knowledge and skills, and the fellowship of the Society's members.


History of ASCRS

The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons was established in 1899. Its initial mission was to facilitate the dissemination of knowledge relating to the colon, rectum, and anus; to encourage proctologic research; and to advance the specialty of colon and rectal surgery. Colon and rectal surgery is one of the oldest recognized specialties.  Writings dating as early as 1250 B.C. dealt with anorectal diseases and indicate there were practitioners devoted to this specialty.  

In 1878, Dr. Joseph McDowell Mathews of Louisville, Kentucky, was the first physician in the world to dedicate his practice exclusively to this specialty. During Dr. Mathews’ tenure as President of the American Medical Association in 1899, he met with twelve colleagues who were also committed to the specialty and founded the American Proctologic Society on June 6, 1899, with Dr. Mathews serving as its first President. Its purpose was “the cultivation and dissemination of knowledge in whatever related to diseases of the colon and rectum” and this basic purpose has guided the Society throughout its existence.  In 1973, the American Proctologic Society changed its name to the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons to indicate more clearly the scope of its members’ special interest.

View the historical scrapbook, which begins with news articles dating back the late 1800s. Enjoy the rich history of the Society and read about the early leadership and their many accomplishments.  

Here is an excerpt from a newspaper article in the scrapbook, dated June, 1897:

Dr. Joseph M. Mathews was born in 1847, and graduated in medicine in 1867. He immediately began th e practice of his profession in his native county, where he remained, actively engaged in practice, for five years. He then removed to Louisville and practiced general medicine until 1878. In that year Dr. Mathews visited England and studied under Allingham, the celebrated proctologist at St. Marks Hospital in London. After thorough training under this great master, Dr. Mathews returned to America and became the pioneer specialist in in this country of rectal diseases. 

In 1999, the ASCRS published a unique book to commemorate the Society’s 100th Anniversary. View the History of the American Society of Colon & Rectal Surgeons from 1899-1999 and read about the Society's development and growth, the establishment of the Diseases of the Colon & Rectum Journal, the Research Foundation and much more. 

The History Committee has interviewed several of the Past Presidents.  Their videos are available in the Resource Library of the website.  Hear first-hand about their experiences, challenges and accomplishments while they served the Society.  Search in the library for videos containing the phrase "Reflects on the Specialty" to find these historical videos.

The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons (ASCRS) is the premier society for colon and rectal surgeons and other professionals dedicated to assuring high quality patient care.  They are governed by an Executive Council led by the President of the ASCRS.  The Executive Council includes seven Officers  and nine additional Members-at-Large.  The ASCRS Executive Council is dedicated to the mission and vision of the Society and the advancement of the specialty.  

The ASCRS encourages member engagement through committee and task force involvement.  Currently the ASCRS supports 33 committees who work diligently to advance the specialty and the mission of the Society.  Through their dedication and commitment the ASCRS is able to provide the membership with valuable resources and information related to the specialty of colon and rectal surgery.  

Members of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgery may access detailed Executive Council and committee rosters