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Opening Doors: Contemporary African American Academic Surgeons home banner written in yellow and black text. Opening Doors: Contemporary African American Academic Surgeons home banner written in yellow and black text. Pioneers written in black text with a light blue background. Above the text is an image of three surgeons standing in an operating room performing surgery with several nurses and attendants observing.  Courtesy Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University. Contemporary Pioneers written in white text with a purple background. Above the text is an image of Alexa Canady preparing for surgery. Courtesy Detroit Free Press/Hugh Glannum. New Frontiers written in black text with a blue background. bove the text is an image of a head shot of a women surgeon wearing a mask, cap and protective eyewear.  Courtesy Sharon Henry, M.D. and Maryland Institute of Emergency Medical Services Systems. History written in black text with a yellow background. Above the text is an image of an illustration of a building with a flag flying at the top. Courtesy National Library of Medicine.

It's attitude, not aptitude, that determines altitude written in white text with a purple background

Man in white medical coat seated at a desk.  Courtesy The Organ Family He believed that experienced physicians and surgeons have a responsibility to pass the torch and share their knowledge with younger physicians and surgeons. In his eyes, this was his greatest professional achievement.


Claude H. Organ, Jr. (1926-2005) was a leading general surgeon and educator.


Born in Marshall, Texas, he was educated in the segregated public school system. His parents held university degrees and instilled in him a sense of dignity and self-worth always emphasizing the importance of education. He excelled in academics and developed an interest in medicine from his two uncles who were physicians and encouraged him to pursue his studies in medicine.

Man in jacket and tie standing in front of a car with a stack of books resting on the car.  Courtesy The Organ FamilyClaude attended historically black Xavier University in New Orleans where he had his first exposure to white professors. His experience with racism and segregation in New Orleans influenced his ideas on how he could change the system from within. He believed that you couldn't just stand on the sidelines; you had to find your own way to contribute to the cause.

Man in green surgical scrubs and head covering standing in an operating room.  Courtesy The Organ FamilyReceiving his medical degree from Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska, he remained at Creighton to complete his internship and residency and quickly moved up the ladder to become the first African American to chair a department of surgery at a predominantly white medical school in 1971. His work ethic, exceptional talent, and strong sense of fairness earned him the respect of his colleagues and students, and contributed to his successful academic career.


Cover of a medical journal with a photograph of a man in a medical coat.  Courtesy Archives of SurgeryTwo stacked books.  Courtesy Private Collection. Dr. Organ developed two successful surgical residency programs, first at Creighton University and later at the University of California/Davis, University of California, San Francisco East Bay Surgery Department. During his tenure at San Francisco he served as the first African American editor of the Archives of Surgery, the largest surgical journal in the English-speaking world. He is also the senior author of a two volume book, A Century of Black Surgeons: The U.S.A. Experience, considered the authoritative text on the subject.


Red, black and grey illustration of man in a suit.  Courtesy The Society of Black Academic Surgeons Dedicated to mentoring young surgeons and committed to encouraging and maintaining diversity in the field of surgery, he was instrumental in the founding of the Society of Black Academic Surgeons and has been the only male to receive the Nina Braunwald Award from the Association of Women Surgeons for “outstanding service to the advancement of women in surgery.”


Remembered as “a giant in the field of surgery,” Dr. Organ made a lasting impression in the medical community through his dedication to excellence and his commitment to education. His far reaching influence is evidenced by the outpouring of respect and admiration he received.

"If he never did an operation (he did thousands), if he never gave a talk, wrote a chapter or wrote and article (he did hundreds of them), if he never held an office in a major surgical organization (he held dozens) he would still be a giant in American surgery simply for having helped so many of us make our own small contribution." John R. Potts, M.D., University of Texas Medical School, Houston.

Group of men and one woman seated in rows of an auditorium. Courtesy The Society of Black Academic SurgeonsIn 1989, Dr. Organ along with several other black academic surgeons founded the Society of Black Academic Surgeons and held it's first annual meeting at Duke University. Today the organization continues it's mission to encourage and inspire young surgeons to enter the academic world and to provide a forum for scholarship in collaboration with the leading departments of surgery.

Man seated in academic robes and cap.  Courtesy The Organ Family Dr. Organ became the second African American President of the American College of Surgeons in 2003. During his tenure he remarked that his presidency should be remembered as the “year of the resident.” In a tribute to Dr. Organ by three of his former residents, their words reflect his own feelings— “Dr. Organ will live on in the work we do and in our contributions to the field of surgery. He will also live on in the patients we treat and the future surgeons we train.” This is his legacy.


Image of a woman and men dressed in formal attire.  Courtesy The Organ Family Group of people standing underneath a banner in a hospital ward.  Courtesy Alameda County Medical Center Image of a printed invitation with an image of a man in a white medical coat.  Courtesy Alameda County Medical Center

Dr. Organ spent 14 years at the University of California Davis/San Francisco East Bay Surgery Program and Highland Hospital in Alameda County, California. In June 2006, the surgery floor at Highland Hospital was named in his honor.

  • B.S., Xavier University, 1948
  • M.D., Creighton University Medical School, 1952
  • Surgical internship and residency, Creighton University Medical School, 1953-56
  • U.S. Navy Hospital, Camp Pendleton, 1957-59
  • Creighton University, 1959-1982
    •    Assistant Professor, 1963
    •    Associate Professor, 1966
    •    Professor, 1971
    •    Chairman of Surgery, 1971
  • University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Professor of Surgery, 1982
  • University of California/Davis-University of California, San Francisco East Bay Surgery Department, Chair of the surgical residency program, 1989-2003