Thank you to SWSC Past President and SWSC Historian Ronny Stewart for providing the photos for our website.
History of SWSC
The origins of The Southwestern Surgical Congress stem from a conversation between Dr. B.T. Beasley of Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. R.L. Sanders of Memphis, Tennessee, and Dr. Walter Stuck of San Antonio, Texas. During the 1948 spring meeting of The Southeastern Surgical Congress, Drs. Beasley and Sanders encouraged Dr. Stuck to organize a regional surgical society of the Southwest, since the Southwest was the only part of the country without a regional surgical society.
The story of the formation of The Southwestern Surgical Congress can best be told in Dr. Stuck’s original letter to The Congress’ first historian, Dr. Louis P. Good of Texarkana, Arkansas.
Dear Dr. Good:
You asked me to give you a play-by-play account of the founding of the Southwestern Surgical Congress, and the part I have played in it, for your historical records. At the outset, I want to say that the whole idea, the inspiration, and the enthusiasm needed to put it over came from Dr. R.L. Sanders of Memphis. Since I was raised in Jonesboro, Arkansas, near Memphis, I had known Dr. Sanders for as long as I can remember….
In April, 1948, I was on the program of The Southeastern Surgical Congress in Miami where I saw Drs. Sanders and Beasley. On the last day of the meeting, I was waiting in the lobby of the Hollywood Beach Hotel for the airport taxi when I ran into Dr. Beasley and Dr. Sanders. They began talking to me about the possibility of organizing a Southwestern Surgical Congress since the Southwest was the only part of the country that did not have a regional surgical society…… They explained to me that the first step was to write to a number of leading surgeons throughout the Southwest and secure their reactions to such an idea. If the replies were favorable, I was to call a meeting at some central place where they could come and present the whole plan to the group.
I wrote to forty or fifty men, and because my acquaintance was principally among orthopedic surgeons, these were the ones I approached first. That also explains the preponderance of orthopedic surgeons among the first officers (Eggers, Overton, Rountree,Stuck.) Without exception, the replies were enthusiastic and it began to appear that such an organization was desirable. I also learned for the first time that a group (Dr. Good, Overton, Cogswell and Goods) had discussed a similar project at The Western Surgical meeting a short time before. They had planned to meet in Dallas in September, 1948, to discuss the idea. You and I agreed that there was no reason why the two groups should not merge.
….. I asked Dr. Rountree if he would arrange a called meeting of the interested surgeons in Oklahoma City, Sunday, October 3, 1948…..
In September, 1948, I met Dr. Sanders and Dr. Orr in Honolulu at the Pan-Pacific Surgical meeting and we had further long discussions on how to start the new Southwestern Surgical. One night at a big party in Honolulu, when everyone else was drinking and eating a native feast and hula dancers were performing for the ogling delegates, Dr. Sanders and I sat for hours on a sofa and held serious converse on the new society. Everyone shied away from us because we looked so solemn…..
At the organization meeting in Oklahoma City, October 3, 1948, Drs. Sanders and Beasley and the Councillors of The Southeastern Surgical Congress (Dr. Herbert Acuff of Knoxville, Dr. Frank Boland of Atlanta, and Dr. Gilbert Douglas of Birmingham) met with us to explain how their society worked and how we could do the same thing. The group agreed that such an organization should be formed and thereupon appointed me President, Dr. Rountree, Secretary, and the following Councillors: Dr. Eggers, Texas; Dr. Glass, Oklahoma; Dr. Good, Arkansas; Dr. Overton, New Mexico; Dr. Cogswell, Arizona; Dr. Orr, Kansas; Dr. Engel, Missouri; Dr. Hegner, Colorado; and Dr. Lindem, Utah.
…… on April 10, 1949, another meeting of all the interested doctors (49) took place in Oklahoma City, and again, Drs. Sanders and Beasley met with us to help in the final phases of the organization. Committees were appointed and I asked you to serve as Program Chairman….. It was Dr. Rountree’s idea that the way to put over the first meeting was to go to the new Shamrock Hotel in Houston and we learned that we could meet there in September, 1949.
From that time on, the essential details for the coming meeting were completed. In the next few weeks, with surprising speed, you secured twelve prominent surgeons for guest speakers and papers from eighteen members of the society. The State Chairman promptly appointed membership committees and prepared a list of proposed Founder members.
Dr. Rountree made the organization work highly successful by calling in Mr. Dick Graham, Executive Secretary of the Oklahoma State Medical Association. He in turn enlisted the aid of the office staff and, through their efforts, it was possible to correspond with the 720 new members and complete all their applications before the meeting.
Mrs. Rountree set up a Southwestern Surgical Office in her home where she and Dr. Rountree carried on much of the detailed work of the organization.
The phenomenal success of the first meeting of The Southwestern Surgical Congress is now well known to everyone. There were no errors or complications and no one even lost his temper. Several of the prominent guests remarked that they had never seen a more peaceful organizational meeting of a new society, and of that I am very proud.
This is the story as I recall it, and, at least, it contains most of the facts. There were many other important conferences I have not emphasized, such as the meeting of you, Dr. Overton, Dr. Blocker and Dr. Beasley at The Southeastern Surgical meeting in Biloxi in May, 1949, and of Dr. and Mrs. Rountree and Mrs. Stuck and I at the American Orthopedic Association meeting in Colorado Springs at the same time. Also, many coincidences such as the fact that Dr. Rountree and Dr. Sanders knew each other in Memphis years ago; you, Dr. Overton, Dr. Sanders and I were Mayo alumni, and our meeting on the train to the Southern Surgical meeting, all helped to putthis society together.
I’m sure we all can look back on the accomplishments with a great deal of satisfaction when we see The Southwestern Surgical Congress become established as a well-known high class society.
*Source: Original transcript from Dr. Walter Stuck accounted for in the Southwestern Surgical Congress History 1948-1985, Editor: Claude H. Organ Jr., MD.