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Biography: Claude H. Organ, Jr.

Claude H. Organ, Jr.

Claude H. Organ, Jr., M.D., (1926–2005) believed that experienced physicians and surgeons have a responsibility to pass the torch and share their knowledge with younger physicians and surgeons. He viewed his mentorship of younger generations as his greatest professional achievement.

Born in Marshall, Texas, he was educated in a segregated public school system. His parents held university degrees and instilled in him a sense of dignity and self-worth, and always emphasized 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.

Dr. Organ 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 became the first African American to chair a department of surgery at a predominantly white medical school. 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 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. He was 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 had 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.