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The Frederick Douglass Stubbs Surgical Oration

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Journal of the National Medical Association, Nov. 1948

In 1941 Dr. Henry Reginald Smith of Chicago, then Chairman of the Surgical Section, suggested the presentation of an Annual Oration in Surgery as a part of our program for the National Medical Association.

The purpose was to bring before the convention each year an individual who, in the opinion of the Section, had made some outstanding contribution in the field of surgery or the basic sciences related to it. In this way, it was felt it would be possible to do three things: (1) Enhance the program, (2) Honor our outstanding colleagues, and (3) Make our history better known, thus creating tradition. Already the list grows impressive.

Our first orator was Dr. Ulysses Grant Dailey of Chicago. Distinguished surgeon, scholar, writer and teacher of young surgeons, he has been for many years Chairman of the Department of Surgery at the Provident Hospital in Chicago, and has served the N.M.A. with singular devotion for over 30 years.

Our second orator was the well loved John A. Kenney, Sr., pioneer surgeon in the woods of Alabama, creator of our oldest and most distinguished clinic, founder and editor since its inception of the journal of the N.M.A. It would be impossible to write a history either of the N.M.A. or of surgery among Negroes in this country without frequent reference to his name.

The third orator was the present Chairman of the Surgical Section, Dr. Charles R. Drew.

The fourth man chosen was a young man who, in a short space of time, accomplished so much that he was an inspiration to us all. He was the late Secretary of our Surgical Section. Last year the Section by acclamation decided that henceforth the Annual Surgical Lecture would be known by his name-The Frederick Douglass Stubbs Memorial Lecture. No more fitting name could be chosen. In honoring his memory, we honor ourselves and hold up for all to see a record which removes forever any doubt of the ability of our men to meet all standards when the doors of opportunity are opened.

Doug Stubbs was 39 when he died. He had won a Phi Beta Kappa Key at Dartmouth, an A.O.A. Key at Harvard; had passed the American Board of Surgery; had become a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons; and was Chief Surgeon of the Mercy Hospital and Douglass Hospital in the city of Philadelphia. He was also Acting Chief of the Thoracic Surgery Service at the University of Pennsylvania. We do not honor him for his accomplishments alone, but for his willingness to join with us in our common problems wherever they arose. He was a Vice President of the N.M.A. and Secretary of the Surgical Section when he died.

The fifth orator was the pioneer surgeon, builder, teacher, philosopher and leader from the Middle and Southwest, Dr. J. Edward Perry, Sr. The sixth orator was the grand surgeon, sage and friend of the Southwest, Dr. Rivers Frederick of New Orleans. He is the present Dean of our active Surgeons.

Our seventh orator, the first Stubbs’ Lecturer, is Dr. Carl Glennis Roberts of Chicago, Illinois. He, like the others, is not only a distinguished surgeon but a leader and fighter of unusual calibre. Already the N.M.A. has honored this stalwart son with its highest gift, the Presidency of this Association.  In 1941 the Association honored him with its distinguished service medal. For eight years he was elected a member of the Board of Trustees. We today claim him as our own in surgery.

Dr. Roberts is a graduate of Chicago College of Medicine (now Loyola) in 1911; he served on the staff of the Chicago General Hospital in gradually ascending ranks until in 1928 when he resigned, in order to carry the heavy load placed on him at Provident, where he was one of the four senior attending surgeons in this famous Hospital. Here he was integrated; here he could have played it safe and easy, but he did not choose to do so.

He joined the Staff at Provident soon after graduation and at the unusually early age of 30 was assigned the job of reorganizing the staff of the Hospital under the able guidance of the dynamic George Hall who, as Chief of Staff, preserved and expanded the institution Dan Williams founded.

He served first in the Division of Gynecology, acting as Chairman during the years 1918-23, later shifting to Surgery where as Chairman of the Department he instituted the five-year plan for graduate training, which gave our medicine its greatest impetus in twenty years. His plan matched the ideals set up for the American Board and antedated its founding. His service was the first in a Negro hospital certified for the training of residents.

Always a profound student, he forced doors open wherever he went. He visited nearly every important clinic in Europe. He was one of the first two to pass the examinations of the American Board. He is a Fellow of the American College. His brilliance as a speaker and writer helped open these doors to our men. He was a member of the committee of three appointed by the N.M.A. in 1939 to address the A.M.A. House of Delegates. This meeting won the fight to have discontinued the designation “col” behind the names of Negro physicians in the A.M.A. register. He has dreamed high dreams for us and helped make many of them come true.


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