Precursor to the Alumni Association — Surgeons Club

Beginning in the late 1890s, physicians traveled to Rochester to observe the Mayo brothers perform surgery. Some of these physicians made annual treks and formed friendships with peers doing the same. This led to ad hoc case discussions and, in 1906, the formation of the International Surgeons Club (later, the Surgeons Club and, still later, the Physicians and Surgeons Club).

The 300-member club was comprised of visiting physicians who wanted to share what they learned while in Rochester. Members of the group visited without invitation and didn’t participate in Mayo patient care, but they elected club officers, hired a secretary and established regular meetings in the Cook House. When they quickly outgrew that space, they were assigned to the second floor of a structure that preceded the 1914 Building (current location of the Siebens Building).

According to The Doctors Mayo by Helen Clapesattle:

… any visiting physician could become a member of the club by paying a nominal registration fee (at first fifty cents, later a dollar, and finally two dollars). … Amid the distractions and amusements of a large city such a club might have failed to take hold, but in Rochester, where the transient doctors lacked occupation for their late afternoon and evening hours, it filled a real social need as well as an educational one. … A room had been rented and furnished to accommodate the group, the daily attendance had risen to an average of twenty-five, and a third daily reporter had been added to make the rounds at the hospital with the interns and report on the postoperative progress of the patients whose operations the club members witnessed. The custom developed of rounding off the discussion with an informal talk by some visitor of repute or some member of the local staff.

… By the end of its first summer the group numbered more than three hundred members, the roster of whom reads like a medical roll call of the American states, the Canadian provinces, and many foreign lands.

… Since there were so many members taking part, the afternoon sessions were proving too short for all that was to be said, and the informal talks were postponed to evening meetings and organized into a regular course of lectures. With the Mayos to teach surgery in the operating room, their associates to teach the several phases of scientific diagnosis, and some of the biggest figures in the world of surgery to add comment and different points of view, the Surgeons Club of Rochester became a postgraduate school of surgery without equal elsewhere in America. Indeed, one Canadian doctor, writing about the Mayos for the Canadian Lancet, declared,

The rush of medical visitors is unabated, many fresh from continental clinics who are most enthusiastic in their expressions of pleasure with this clinic, which they say far surpasses anything they saw upon the other side of the Atlantic. … The little western town [is] slowly becoming the greatest post-graduate centre of the century, with possibilities practically illimitable.

… Imitation of the Mayo methods had produced a score of small group clinics before the war, most of them fathered by members of the Surgeons Club or by former fellowship men, who had seen for themselves how the idea worked in Rochester. And imitation of the Mayos was publicly claimed by several of the largest groups formed immediately after the war – claimed, because of the Mayo reputation with the public.

Notable international physicians in the group included Harold Stiles, M.B., C.M., Edinburgh, Scotland; Friedrich Trendelenburg, Leipzig, Germany; Samuel Pozzi, Paris; Alexis Carrel, Lyons, France (1912 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine); and Baron Kanehiro Takaki, Japan.

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