Past Presidents

Past Presidents | ASCRS

1923 to 1924

Whence proctology in America has come to its present estate is a matter more or less familial to us all, but to none is the story of its development more intimately known than to our past president. Dr. Beach, a charter member and the first secretary of the American Proctologic Society: who has loved it and worked for it as but few of its Fellows have, and who follows me on today's program. Twenty-live years ago, within a few months of the first meeting of this Society, the then president of a Southern medical society delivered an address before his organization which was entitled "Quo Vadis?" It dealt with professional problems, then timely or prospective but now largely retrospective. The quarter century is ended for us and it is an appropriate time to consider our own past and future. Hence, I have frankly appropriated the title of the before-mentioned presidential address, and while leaving matters in retrospect to Dr. Beach, I shall have things to say of matters timely and in prospect. If at times I may appear rather caustic, it will be truths which have been forced upon me during my service as Secretary and Editor, and will be said only with constructive intent for the good of proctology, and for the good of a society which I value more than any other professional organization to which I belong.


Every medical and surgical specialty began because there was need and possibility of better work in that particular line than was wing done by the general profession: it had, at first, to meet the disdain and often the antagonism of the profession, but with increase in numbers and perfection of work resulting from competition and from cooperation in its special society, gave better service to suffering humanity than ever before and commanded the respect of the profession.

1922 to 1923

Fellow Members of the American Proctologic Society, and old friends, to one and all I bring greetings.

I call you old friends advisedly, for had I not your friendship and confidence, I would not today be presiding over this distinguished gathering. I think it was Horace Walpole who said: "Old friends are the greatest blessing of one's later years. Half a word conveys one's meaning. They have a memory of the same events, and have the same mode of thinking."


That is particularly true of the friendships that we have formed in this body. It has been thirteen years since I was honored by being made an associate fellow of this Society. I had been permitted to attend some of your meetings previously, as a guest, and hence could appreciate the value of an association with you.


At that time I was just beginning the study of rectal diseases, and, while I did not then comprehend all that was said, yet the sincerity and earnestness of your members made a most favorable and lasting impression upon me. The discussions were always liberal, and at times spirited. Contrary to the custom prevailing in other medical societies, it was noticeable that even the most excellent papers received few bouquets at your hands. On the contrary if a statement was made, which did not ring true in every respect, the author was subjected to severe, and at times, apparently unfriendly criticism. In other words a speaker dared not make a statement which he was not prepared to back up.

1921 to 1922

I deem it my first duty to offer an apology for departing from the established custom of presenting a presidential address dealing with the history, progress and policies of the Society, as has been tenaciously adhered to by those who have gone before me.

There are two distinct reasons for my pursuing a course different from that of my predecessors.

First. You who have honored me with the presidency of this Society, with the able members of the Council, have so well perfected its affairs that I feel wholly incapable of commenting or of advancing views that would be of interest or value to the organization.

Second. For a number of years I have been profoundly interested in the clinical manifestations and treatment of chronic infections of the structures composing the pelvic outlet and its surroundings. Especially have I been interested in the treatment of the affection known as pruritus ani and vulvae.


Since I have been engaged in an original clinical study for three years, particularly of pruritic affections of these parts, I have selected this occasion to narrate my experiences and offer them to you for comment and criticism.

1920 to 1921

I have no original proctologic research work to offer, and, as a scientific subject or ease report is best presented where a full opportunity for discussion is permitted, it shall be my endeavor to direct your attention to some suggestions or matters of general interest, which, if adopted, might possibly improve the general welfare of this Society.


In reply to those who are of the opinion that there are too many medical societies, I would emphasize the fact that the American Proctologic Society needs no apology for its existence. The watchword of its charter members was "Progress ", and it has withstood all storms. If nurtured properly and carefully it will continue, as it has since its birth, to occupy a prominent position in medical and surgical progress and fulfill the object for which it was organized to the anus, rectum and colon.


As to age, the American Proctologic Society has attained its majority, and with but one exception, which was in 1918 during the world war, it has held its annual session as prescribed by its constitution. Its membership of approximately fifty Fellows indicates a slow but continuous and healthy growth. A review of its scientific programs is sufficient testimony to illustrate that progress has been made, and we who enjoy the privilege of membership in this Society may well feel proud of the honor and distinction which has been conferred upon us.

1919 to 1920

It is with a feeling of keen pleasure that I stand before you today to extend to you a welcome to our Twenty-first Annual Meeting. As guests of our own Dr. Jelks and of the Memphis and Shelby County Medical Society, the American Proctologic Society is indeed fortunate.


It is good to see that co-operation, the first text in my address, is so well exemplified in the'way in which all have worked to make our program one to be remembered.


Twenty-one years ago this Society was organized by thirteen enthusiastic surgeons, who were far-sighted enough to see that in proctology there was a wonderful field for research and study. Previous to this, dating from 1885, there had been a few informal meetings of proctologists which led up to this organization. It was fitting that Dr. Joseph M. Mathews, of Louisville, Ky., the retiring president of the American Medical Association at that time, should be elected as our president. Yon gentlemen of the South can be justly proud of this, your fellow worker, this truly great man, who already had accomplished so much in the little known field of proctology.


When Dr. Mathews began to turn his attention to the study of diseases of the rectum and anus, specialism was just beginning. True it was that there were already men claiming to cure these conditions, but their rather doubtful methods of advertising were irritating to those members of the regular profession who were trying to practice medicine honorably and honestly.

1917 to 1919

It is two years since last we met, and in that time great changes have taken place. Many of us have been in the service of our country, either here or overseas. During this period there was little opportunity for original work in our special line; but now that the war is over and peace is in the offing, it behooves us to make up for lost time, and to make every endeavor to bring about a better understanding of diseases of the alimentary canal.


It is necessary to educate the public, and this can be done only if the physician himself is a master of his subject. Specialization is important, but it is essential that one have a comprehensive sight, since he of narrow caliber is a dangerous man. The man of liberal training is a cosmopolite; the other a provincial.


It is impossible to study the alimentary canal segmentally, since all its parts are so closely related and correlated that one is apt to misinterpret symptoms by confining his interest to one segment. There is no more important problem in connection with the subject of disease than the proper interpretation of symptoms; and it is of the first importance that one should know embryology, anatomy, physiology and the other fundamentals for such interpretation.
 

Since, embryologically, the alimentary canal is divided into a fore and a hind gut, and since the hind gut includes about thirty inches of the ileum, which is capable of taking on the function of the colon, it is self-evident that this whole segment should be included in our special work.

1916 to 1917

In 1907, at Atlantic City, through the courtesy of Dr. A. B. Cooke, then secretary, the pleasure was afforded me of attending for the first time a session of the American Proctologic Society. Today, a decade later, I am honored by being permitted to preside at its nineteenth annual meeting. Allow me to express my sincere thanks, and be assured of my grateful appreciation.


It is, however, in a most humble spirit that I approach my task, for I recall those who have been my predecessors, and am mindful that the name of each one stands out illustrious in the annals of proctology. Among them were the charter members of this Society: Lewis H. Adler, Jr., William M. Beach, A. Bennett Cooke, Samuel T. Earle, George B. Evans, Samuel G. Gant, Thomas C. Martin, Joseph M. Mathews, J. Rawson Pennington, and the late lamented George J. Cook and James P. Tuttle. These men were the pioneer teachers and practitioners of modern proctology. Through their tireless labors this special field of surgery, which before had been most woefully neglected by the reputable general surgeon, was rescued from the unworthy hands into which it had fallen. Through years of patient and continued effort, with the earnest assistance of all the other fellows of the Society, they secured from the medical profession that recognition of proctology, as a specialty, such as they always deemed it deserved. It is most gratifying to be able to state that with the creation, in 1916, of a Section on Proctology, by the American Medical Association, their efforts have been crowned with success. It may also be said, in passing, that the American College of Surgeons, acting in accordance with the broad and liberal spirit in which it was conceived, has also given recognition to this specialty by conferring fellowships upon a large number of the fellows of this Society.

1915 to 1916

When called upon some months ago by our energetic Secretary for the subject of my presidential address, I thought the matter over for a few days and then sent him the title which helps to adorn the excellent program we have this year. With the conforting assurance that I had a good title, which would be the main consideration, and that many admirable reasons why proctology has been made a specialty could be easily and readily got together, the matter was allowed to drop until quite recently. However, my consternation was very real when in preparation for this effort, I proceeded to read the addresses that have been published in our Transactions since 1909. In them was found nearly every idea I had in mind to utilize, ably presented by my predecessors in office.


Inasmuch, however, as our specialty is, relatively speaking, a new one, and as there are certain problems which we should all keep in mind for the future welfare of proctology, I shall call your attention to some of them in this paper. For this informal presentation I sincerely apologize and ask your indulgence.
 

In answering the question, "Why Proctology has been made a specialty," I believe we could stop with the one word Fistula. Sufferers from this disease never have-and I started to say never will-receive skillful, or even adequate, treatment at the hands of the general surgeon. He has never taken pains to learn the underlying principles of a fistula operation nor has he the requisite skill, experience or inclination to carry out the necessary steps in the post-operative treatment of these cases, to bring them to a successful conclusion.

1914 to 1915

As chairman of the American Proctologic Society, it is my pleasant duty to bid you welcome to this our seventeenth annual meeting.


I wish to express to the Fellows of the Society my cordial thanks and appreciation for the honor conferred upon me in selecting me as their presiding officer. The good work of this Society, and the high qualifications of my predecessors, make me realize that the honor is a great one, and causes me to feel a deep responsibility in assuming the office which they have so well filled.


The greater part of the work of the past year has fallen upon our experienced and proficient Secretary. And the credit for the success of this meeting will be due to his energy and perseverance.


When I look at this year's program and read the titles of the various papers, the number of which compares favorably with that of any meeting of previous years, I feel that the success of this session ought to be equal to or even surpass some of our preceding gatherings.


I trust that all those who have honored the program with their names, will have shown their interest in the welfare of the Society by being present to-day.
 

Nearly two decades have now elapsed since the organization of this Society. It was on Wednesday, the 7th day of June, at two-thirty p.m. in the year 1899, that the first meeting of the American Proctologic Society took place at the Hotel Chittenden, Columbus, Ohio.

1913 to 1914
1912 to 1913

It is a time honored custom in all organizations such as ours, that the retiring president deliver an address to his Fellows on some subject, or subjects, of mutual interest. I feel that it would show base ingratitude on my part, in return for the honor you have done an humble worker in our specialty by electing me your presiding officer, to inflict upon you a long dry discourse on matters with which you are more familiar than am I. Instead, therefore, inasmuch as this is the age of expansion and enlargement and healthy growth, I wish to present a few thoughts on the subject of Proctology come into its own.


Since the organization of this Society some fifteen years ago, the fields of labor and endeavor on the part of the medical profession have been many and varied. One of the largest of these fields, up to the last few years, has been scarcely tilled at all.


The digestive system is  subjected to more opportunities for pathologic  changes in its anatomy and physiology than any other, and on account of the very nature of its function the eliminative portion of the gastro-intestinal canal is particularly prone to pathologic interference.

1911 to 1912

It is with an extreme degree of timidity that I approach the subject of this address, being younger and less experienced than many of my auditors, yet the subject appeals to me, especially at this time. An address of this character must need be ultra scientific.


At its inception, this Society was something new- "a strange vessel on the high seas." In its embryonic state, its moulding was, after a fashion, to partake of the character and idiosyncrasies of those who organized it.


This child of American Medicine has now become a sprightly youth, and with ambition and strength of purpose, having and exercising authority.

The medical world has begun already to recognize authoritatively the expression of its Fellows, and is looking to them for light on the subjects involved in our specialty.


Our individual responsibilities, therefore, become the more distinct and the necessity of exercising discretion and thoroughness of description, as also of perfection of technic, must be carefully observed. What we write or state in moments of extreme enthusiasm cannot be erased, and, if the deductions drawn are erroneous, may exercise incalculable harm.


I can safely state that you would advise and practice what would be considered the best technic for the relief of the patient.

1910 to 1911

The present occasion is the thirteenth anniversary of the organization of the first medical society in the world, whose sole object is the "investigation and dissemination of knowledge relating to the rectum, anus and colon." Other associations had been formed for the purpose of devoting their energies to the investigation of diseases of almost every other organ or group of organs in the body. The American Proctologic Society, however, was the first organized for the special object named.


This is an age of specialism, and the wonderful development and advances in arts and sciences is due to specialism- the concentration of the mental energies along one line of thought. A person must be accurately acquainted with the principles of the entire science before he is capable of elucidating or practicing successfully anyone of its parts. In medicine, no physician is qualified to specialize until he has followed the general practice a number of years. This is essential in order to gain an accurate knowledge of the entire science. Our by-laws require that a physician must be a graduate and in general practice for at least five years before he can be admitted to our Society. If this could be changed to read eight years instead of five years, it would undoubtedly mean the admission to our Society of physicians with increased qualifications. The physician who takes up a special line of practice, with only a few years in the general field, is at best a narrow man in medicine. He cannot appreciate the relation of diseases of other organs to those of the part to which he is devoting his attention, and we should discourage the medical student or young practitioner from thinking of taking up any special line of work until he has been in general practice a requisite length of time.

1909 to 1910

While the formal subject of my address is Undergraduate Proctology, there are, however, some matters of special interest to the society about which I wish to say a few words before taking up that subject. But before considering these matters of special interest, I desire to thank the society for the very distinguished honor conferred in choosing me for president. I wish also to thank the executive committee for their efforts in behalf of the society and for upholding the chief officers in all work attempted by them. I am truly grateful to our able secretary for his untiring efforts and thoughtfulness in furthering the welfare of our society, for to the secretary more than to any other officer is due the success of our meetings.


This society stands for a high class of scientific work. The discussions in our meetings should treat in an exhaustive way every subject taken up. In order that this may result, would it not be wise to single out for this purpose at least one proctologic subject, or possibly two, for special consideration at each annual meeting. I would recommend that at our next annual gathering a part of our program, be made up of a symposium of essays that shall treat thoroughly some selected subject, or subjects and that these papers be written by men whose part in the symposium shall be assigned to them by the executive committee.


In addition to the symposium, a few miscellaneous papers and reports of cases may be read, but these should be limited in number so that our program will not be too crowded.

1908 to 1909

It is a great privilege and honor to preside over the deliberations of this Society. From the very beginning I considered it the greatest honor of my professional life to be invited to become one of the charter members of a society devoted exclusively to proctology. There is no greater satisfaction in life to the man who is upright and whole-souled, than to feel that he has the confidence and esteem of his co-laborers. The greatest proof of my interest in the growth and welfare of this Society lies in the fact that I have been present at every meeting, and listened to every paper and discussion. As the hand on the dial points to the hour when the “clans must gather to the trysting place," we are reminded that the American Proctologic Society will now assemble for the eleventh time since it met at the Chittenden Hotel, Columbus, Ohio, June 6-7, 1898, when it was created a National body. As the chariot of time has rolled by, each annual session has left its imprint on the history of proctology, an imprint which has yearly become wider, deeper and far more indelible as our organization has advanced in maturity, strength and prosperity.


Our labors have not only contributed to our individual betterment as members of this guild, but they have added to the dignity and luster of Proctologic Surgery by their excellent results. With this great heritage, a measure of accountability for the safeguarding of the trust has also been handed to us, which adds to the grave responsibilities of the hour.


As I stand before this gathering of guests and my distinguished Fellows, I feel profoundly conscious of my own shortcomings and Unworthiness, yet deeply grateful for your confidence and esteem. As I gaze upon this year's program, containing twenty-six papers from various authors, I feel assured that when this session closes, one year more of fruitful endeavor and achievement will be added to the imperishable records of our Society.

1907 to 1908

It is becoming that my first word on this occasion should be one of appreciation and gratitude. From the very beginning I have considered it one of the rarest privileges of my professional life to be a member of the American Proctologic Society, the most independent, select and exclusive of all national medical organizations. And when I recall the high character and conspicuous prominence of those who have preceded me as president, I cannot but feel that I have been honored far beyond my just deserts. But the chief source of gratification in such preferment lies in the personal tribute it conveys. Aside from the approval of his own conscience, there is no keener satisfaction in life to the man whose heart is right than to feel that he has the confidence and esteem of those who know him best.


Formal words are always inadequate to express the deepest feeling. Let the sincerity of this simple acknowledgement atone for all it lacks in grace and fervor, and believe me when I say that this body will never have a president more deeply sensible of the high honor of the office nor more genuinely appreciative of all that his elevation to it implied.


Not the least difficult thing about a presidential address is the choosing of a theme. Mindful of the harrowing experiences of certain of my immediate predecessors, I have determined to inaugurate a reform in at least one respect which I am sure will win approval. Before beginning the actual work of reducing my seething thoughts to orderly expression I resolved that, at whatever cost, this address should not exceed two hours in length. I recognize that this selfimposed restriction will deprive you of much of surpassing value, but within that short time I shall hope to present briet1y several items which may well engage our attention. This is our tenth annual meeting. Time is conveniently marked by decades, and on the highway of the course we are traveling together, the first mile-stone is now being passed. The occasion is auspicious for a balancing of accounts; or a restatement of the purposes for which our organization was founded, for a glance at the progress made, and for a renewed consecration of our loyalty and endeavor.

1906 to 1907
1905 to 1906

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