History of Medicine
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.
Claude 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.
Receiving 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.
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.
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.
In 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.
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.
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