Past Presidents

Past Presidents | ASCRS

2018 to 2019

I have been truly humbled and honored to serve as president of the American Society of Colorectal surgeons for the past year. By tradition one of the duties of the president is to give the presidential address at the annual meeting. As noted by past president John Remington in 1974 this could be good or bad.

Good for me since as president I get to choose the topic, I don’t have to get approval from the program committee, and out of respect for the office of the president I’m guaranteed a full house with a somewhat polite audience.

Bad for everyone else here, since you’re stuck listening to me, hoping that I won’t drone on and on about nothing.

I promise, I will do my best not bore you with a never-ending PowerPoint presentation and try to make this talk relevant or at least thought provoking.

2017 to 2018

Across the Universe: “Sounds of Laughter, Shades of Life”

Guy Orangio, MD

ASCRS Presidential Address

May 2018


I wish to express what an honor and privilege, it has been for me to serve as the President of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons this past year. I am humbled to stand in front of this great society where so many more deserving men and women have stood before me and presented their Presidential Addresses. Standing in the footprints of giants, is truly the pinnacle of my professional career.


The high point of the any Presidential year is our Annual Scientific Meeting; we are so privileged to be in this beautiful venue in the “Heart of Country Music.” In 1908 American Proctologic Society’s annual meeting was in Nashville, Dr. A.B. Cooke (President 1907-1908) Presidential Address, assured the members at the meeting that he would not exceed 2 hours. In today’s digital world, if my address exceeds 40 minutes I will be the only one left in this room.



2016 to 2017

Members and guests, friends, and family: It has been a great honor to have been your president in the last year and I thank you for the privilege of being able to address you today. I have been a member of this organization for almost 30 years and I can think of no other surgical society with the expertise, collegiality and camaraderie of this special group.

2015 to 2016

Presidential Address Dr. Charles Littlejohn 2016 from ASCRS on Vimeo.

2014 to 2015

Friends and Colleagues,
As I stand before you this morning to present the 114th Presidential Address to the American Society of Colon Rectal Surgery, I find myself both humbled and honored. 

2013 to 2014

I am honored and humbled to be here today, as a representative of the society with which I have identified myself for the past 24 years. The honor of serving as President for the past 13 months has been one that I have taken seriously, because it reflects a trust that each of you have bestowed upon me. In the words of former American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons (ASCRS) President Harry Bacon during his 1949 presidential talk, “It is good to lose oneself in contemplation of the past and in reflection upon the achievements of those who have gone before us.” I actually have the distinct pleasure of introducing the Bacon Lecturer tomorrow and am doubly honored in that Harry Bacon was a prime mentor in the 1940's for my father-in-law Dr. Richard Thompson during his surgical training at Temple, and the speaker chosen to give the Bacon Lecture is Dr David Hoyt, one of my mentors. Who would believe that this young lad from Ohio would go on to graduate from medical school at Case Western Reserve University and then to complete surgical training as a young man in California, much less become the executive Director of the American College of Surgeons! But that’s the point…things change.

It has been a busy but very rewarding year, culminated by this meeting, but also highlighted by the Strategic Planning session we held right up the coast in Fort Lauderdale in conjunction with the 25th annual Cleveland Clinic Symposia in February, the results of which are being disseminated broadly this week and which will guide our society over the next 3 to 4 years. 

2012 to 2013
2011 to 2012

We have heard many presidents stand up at this and at other societies, and tell us that the most difficult part of the year was not the business of the society. As you will hear during my talk, I had a fantastic team, including physicians and nonphysicians, helping me run the Society. The team included staff in the Chicago office of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons (ASCRS), the Executive Council, and people at home. The hardest part of the President’s job is selecting a theme for the presidential address and subsequently creating the talk. I am not going to misrepresent that this task was easy for me. I went through a variety of topics, and Lester was way ahead of me saying, “I need the pictures for the intro.” My reply was, “Lester, I don’t even know what I’m talking about yet.”

However, ultimately, it went off like a light bulb when I realized that what has been important in my career is the global collaboration we enjoy in this small specialty—and we are small. In the American College of Surgeons, we are, next to the pediatric surgeons—no pun intended—the second smallest specialty group. We are a small group, which provides something very, very unique: a global collaboration that enhances the mission of this Society and ultimately the care of our patients.

So once I arrived at a theme, I had a lot of fun preparing this talk; hopefully, you will have fun listening to it. I will begin by expressing my gratitude to the many people who have made this past year both possible and enjoyable. I am grateful to the entire membership for having bestowed this honor upon me. Yes, I have derived significant amounts of pleasure in this role. I have learned a huge amount from my many respected friends and colleagues from around the world. You will see some of them featured in my address. I am thankful to each and every one of them, and to others not mentioned here, for their teachings, their time, and their friendship. I have gained a significant amount of wisdom from them, as well as from my colleagues at home and elsewhere, and from my residents—I am always learning from my residents—and alumni.

2010 to 2011

Members of the The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons (Society), friends, and guests, it has been my distinct pleasure and honor to have served as your president for the past year. Shortly after being elected to this distinguished office, my predecessor gladly sent me a notebook that contains all the previous presidential lectures, many of which have been published in Diseases of the Colon & Rectum. One of my goals as a past president will be to convert these talks into a digital format for future presidents.

In reviewing the binder, I learned that during the previous 111 years, there have been 101 presidents, with 6 of them serving 2 terms, an event unlikely to occur again. The presidential talks have run the gamut from scholarly scientific papers, attempts to foretell the future, predictions about the future fate of our specialty, both gloomy and bright, philosophic looks at our predecessors, and exhortations on what we could and should do for our specialty. Only one president did not give a presidential oration and to quote a previous president, J. Byron Gathright, “I won’t be the second.”

What would be a suitable topic for this presentation? I sought advice from my wife Sharon, who wisely advised me to speak slowly, make it interesting, and keep it short. After significant deliberation, I have chosen to speak on Choosing your Goals and how this skill has advanced our specialty and can enhance your professional career.

Goals are defined in Webster’s Dictionary as a boundary or an end that one strives to attain. 

2009 to 2010

Honor is a perception that is bestowed and received. Serving as your president this year has been an honor, which I humbly receive, knowing the stature of the individuals who have preceded me. I thank God daily for safe passage through this year, as I look forward to achieving that most desired status of Past President. I cannot take sole credit for this honor and, in fact, never imagined this to be possible in my youth. I have served with many of you in many areas of our society and it has been through those combined efforts that I have come to serve you as your president. Thank all of you for your friendship and hard work and thank you for this honor.

As I read through the speeches of 100 Past Presidents, I too became aware of the fact that everything that really needs to be said has previously been said. I refer you to this extremely interesting living history of our society which, thanks to Stella Zedalis, will soon be available through a link on our website. The struggle to identify a meaningful topic and a title for this speech has plagued every past president since A. B. Cooke first published his talk in 1910. As you can see from this table, I also struggled, until I settled on the “Impact of Professionalism.” Looking into the past has helped me understand our responsibility for today and given me hope for the future of our society. Our expressed goals will become the future (hopefully) and our actions will be seen as the past in a few short years. One can only hope that our “past” reflects our purity of heart, our soundness of mind, and our selfless pursuit of what is right today. Even though the issues in our 1st century of societal life are different from those in 2010, the methods by which we overcome those hurdles have not changed.

2008 to 2009

In the book The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb, the author introduces the concept of an ovine miracle that had previously been deemed an unassailable European belief, the existence of a living “black swan.” The living evidence of these Australian phenomena was a concept whose very existence was thought to be not only improbable but also completely impossible, an unknown unknown. This finding caused great excitement within ornithological circles. These fantastic occurrences are very different from the known unknowns, which represent phenomena that occur with a predictable frequency, whose mechanism is understood, and are recognizable and quantifiable. The response is easy to craft and the downstream impact is rarely dramatic and unique. We understand these phenomena: a patient with a fever on postoperative day 5 may have atelectasis, a urinary tract infection, pneumonia, an intra-abdominal abscess, or an anastomotic leak. We can sort these dilemmas out.

To qualify as a true black swan, the event must be dramatic in and of itself. The magnitude of the event, however, is defined not by the occurrence itself but predominantly by the response and sequelae of the phenomena. Although it would be presumptuous to claim clairvoyance in selection of a theme for this talk, my term as president of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons (ASCRS) has been bracketed by 2 dramatic and unexpected events: the international monetary crisis last Fall and now the potential impact of influenza A(the politically correct term to avoid offending the porcine contingent). As a result, I would like to put this metaphor of the black swan in context for the things I have experienced thus far in my career and what this may mean to our specialty and professional medical association, the ASCRS.

2007 to 2008

It has truly been a privilege and a wonderful honor to serve as president of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons this past year. I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to all of you here in attendance today, and to everyone who supported my presidency year. I am sincerely grateful to our three past presidents on the nominating committee: Dr. Rick Billingham, Dr. David Schoetz, and Dr. Bruce Wolff, as well as to all of you who endorsed my nomination. This is the pinnacle of my career.

I also appreciate the hard work and outstanding effort of the Executive Council in helping me through this year; and the Society’s administrative staff which, for many years, has efficiently organized and maintained our society at such a high level. And I am extremely grateful to my colleagues at Memorial Sloan-Kettering for their enduring support. They are an outstanding group of surgeons, and it is an honor for me to work with them. I would also like to thank my former colleagues from Minnesota who initially trained and mentored me, and set my career on the right path- as opposed to the ‘‘Wong path’’ to which I am accustomed!

Finally, there are two ladies I have relied on most during this past year. Stella Zedalis, Associate Executive Director of our Society, is a remarkable individual: extraordinarily efficient, well-organized, and personable; I know that all of our presidents have relied on her for support. And of course, my dear wife Sola; she has been my guiding light throughout our married life and throughout my entire career. She did a marvelous job of raising our three wonderful children while I worked long hours.

2006 to 2007

The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons (ASCRS) is an association of individuals who have shared interests, experiences, and traditions since 1899. In the tradition of appreciation, I would like to thank the Society for more than a quarter of a century of personal experiences, led by 26 presidents, who have served as mentors to us all.

In 2007, the ASCRS membership totals 2,674—26 percent of whom are international. Currently, 9 percent are women, and I would like to thank Dr. Ann Lowry, our Immediate-Past President for her support this year. I wish her well as she enters the realm of Past Presidency. I also thank the 12 council members, 37 ASCRS advisors and representatives, 24 committee chairs, 428 committee members, 44 members of the Diseases of the Colon & Rectum editorial board, and our 19-member administrative staff at Executive Administration Inc. (EAI). In addition, I would like to recognize the 19 members serving the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery (ABCRS), the President, Dr. Herand Abcarian, the Executive Director, Dr. David Schoetz, as well as the 49 members of the Research Foundation, and the President, Dr. Walter Koltun. Finally, we recognize Dr. David Cherry, President of the Association of Program Directors for Colon and Rectal Surgery, for the 47 colon and rectal residency programs in this country.

In total, we have a 660-member workforce in our specialty, which is the engine that drives us forward. I thank members of the U.S. Armed Forces, in particular those ASCRS members who serve and allow us to live in peace in the United States while we perform our clinical duties.

2005 to 2006

In a Presidential Address notable for its frankness, outgoing ASCRS President Dr. Ann C. Lowry, Minneapolis, MN, proposed strategies to squarely confront three major challenges:

• Continuing medical education,
• Quality of care, and
• Relationship with industry.

Dr. Lowry introduced a six-point approach to meeting these challenges:

• Acknowledge the problem (even when it's difficult to admit something may be wrong);
• Learn from others;
• Brainstorm possible solutions;
• Prioritize the options;
• Collaborate when appropriate ("You can accomplish more if you do not worry about who gets the credit");
• Do something ("Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there," said Will Rogers).

2004 to 2005

It has been a privilege and an honor to work this past year with a superb Executive Council and to be an advocate and caretaker of a most sacred trust, The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons (ASCRS). As many of my predecessors have affirmed in their own cases, I have been able to do this only with the help and understanding of my colleagues at Mayo, my children, and most of all, my wife, Vikki. Please also permit me to acknowledge the influence and example of my father and mother, who started what are now three generations of Mayo-trained surgeons.

For two years, I have been considering what I would say to you at this moment, as the presidential address is the bane of all presidents. Although I am comfortable discussing with you, as colleagues, such things as diverticulitis or Crohn’s disease, where I can hide behind data and clinical experience, this address requires something more for which I am somewhat ill-equipped—the sharing of pertinent philosophic beliefs, global perspective on our sub-specialty, and recommendations for positive action. These inner revelations have been bound in conceptual constipation and have not come easily, and I am exhausted with the effort.

2003 to 2004

I wish to extend my humble gratitude to the membership for the privilege of having served as your 97th president (5 have served twice); this represents a singular professional and personal honor. Particular thanks to the Executive Council for their sage advice during the year; they, in conjunction with our management team at EAI, have helped steer the organization through exciting and potentially difficult decisions and developments. I cannot omit my partners at the Lahey Clinic, who have allowed and endured my absences to perform Society business. Similarly, I am grateful to my friends and colleagues both inside the specialty and out, who have been more than willing to impart wise counsel and personal opinions regarding all manner of Society and specialty business. Finally, and first, I must thank my family and particularly my “appreciably better half” for encouraging and supporting my professional career over the years; without them, none of this would have been even remotely possible.

When one assumes the presidency, most of the past presidents assure you that your presidential address is the single most daunting task of the year; I agree. As one seeks inspiration for a topic of sufficient importance to be worthy of presentation, it occurs to you that this represents one of the few opportunities in your life (particularly if you have children) to present your personal passion for up to 25 uninterrupted minutes without any argument.

2002 to 2003

It has been my honor to serve as your President during this past year. The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons celebrates its 104th year with this meeting and is a unique group, numbering more than 2,300 members worldwide. It is a very different group from others with which I have been associated, likely because of the warm and affable personalities of those who have chosen a career in colon and rectal surgery. Newcomers to our meetings are immediately made to feel welcome, and long-term friendships are easily formed. Most of my best friends have been made within the context of this Society, as well as its sister organizations, the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery, the Research Foundation of the ASCRS, and the Association of Program Directors in Colon and Rectal Surgery.

A feature that is perhaps unique in our Society is not the number of people whom we know on a first-name basis, but those who are universally known by their first names alone.
Examples are:

Ira (Ira Kodner)
Stanley (Stanley Goldberg)
Johnny (John Mackeigan)
Vic (Victor Fazio)
Byron (Byron Gathright)
Sam (Sam Labow)
Heidi (Heidi Nelson)
Randy (Randy Bailey)
Graham (Graham Newstead)
Yanek (Yanek Chiu)
Sergio (Sergio Larach)
Ann (Ann Lowry)
Stella (Stella Zedalis)

2001 to 2002

I would like to express my humble and most profound gratitude for the honor of serving this Society as president for the past year. I’ve approached this presidential address with some trepidation. What can I say that will be of interest that hasn’t already been said? I’ve sat through 22 previous presidential addresses, and reviewed several more in preparation for my own talk. I’m sad to say that I had forgotten the pertinent message of many of these speeches, a fact that I am prepared to accept that most of you will accord to mine today. A couple of addresses I distinctly remember because of their length; sitting through these talks I passed through all of the classic stages described by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross—denial, anger, bargaining with God, depression, and finally reluctant acceptance. I hope not to follow in this mold, and I’m going to attempt to finish at about the anger stage, or at least before the stage of depression that seems to characterize so many of today’s surgical meetings.

The title of my talk is “A Picture from Philadelphia,” and the picture I would like to use as a starting reference is the Thomas Eakins’ painting, The Gross Clinic. This work was completed in 1875, in anticipation of the American Centennial Celebration held in Philadelphia the following year.