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Special Article
November 01, 2005

Claude H. Organ, Jr, MD

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Surgery, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles.


Copyright 2005 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2005

Arch Surg. 2005;140(11):1048. doi:10.1001/archsurg.140.11.1048

Dr Claude Organ was endowed with extraordinary gifts. Among them were those of intellect, friendship, leadership, integrity, faith, and the capacity to give of himself. The Gospel of Luke (12:48) states: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, they will ask the more.” Claude Organ never faltered in the fulfillment of the covenant represented in this citation. His peers asked him to assume responsibilities for leadership in diffuse roles—surgical educator, chairman of the American Board of Surgery, Philadelphia, Pa, president of the American College of Surgeons, Chicago, Ill, editor of Archives of Surgery, and international “ambassador,” to mention some positions that he filled with distinction. Particularly noteworthy was his role as a mentor to young surgeons from all backgrounds, to whom he gave unstintingly of his time with sage advice and counsel. This resulted in a legacy that will long endure.

Claude Organ was proud of his heritage and deserves major credit for the emergence of an increasingly large number of outstanding African American surgeons, particularly noteworthy in academic surgery. He was the “godfather” of the Society of Black Academic Surgeons.

Although I had known Claude for many years, our friendship matured during the 1980s at the time of our years of synchronous service as directors of the American Board of Surgery. Claude provided leadership as a director and, subsequently, as chairman of the board during a time when several important initiatives were undertaken—restructuring of the board to reduce size and create 1 class of directors, issuance of certificates in vascular surgery and surgical critical care, restructuring of the certifying examination, and, potentially divisive, the admission for examination and certification of osteopathic physicians who had successfully completed a residency in a program approved by the Residency Review Committee for Surgery. His approach was one of quiet persuasion, using irrefutable logic and leavening it with a generous dose of humor. He could also be the instigator of the unsuspected. One evening during a January business meeting of the active members of the board at the airport in Dallas, Tex, Claude decided that a few of us should take a cab into Dallas for an unannounced visit with Bill Fry, who was a senior member and former chairman of the board. When we arrived, Marty Fry welcomed us, but Bill was at a meeting. We awaited his return, at which time he was naturally surprised to find unexpected visitors. After a particularly pleasant interlude, we returned to the airport. This entire episode was vintage Claude, a thoughtful gesture of friendship for a respected colleague.

In recent years, Claude and I had frequent telephone conversations during which we settled all of the problems of surgery, at least to our satisfaction! Quite recently, I was particularly fortunate to have Betty and Claude visit me at my home in Pasadena, Calif, for a few days. He was his usual ebullient self. I fear that Betty had a bit of trouble inserting herself into our nonstop conversation that covered widely diverse subjects. This is a memory that I will always treasure.

A memoir regarding Claude could not be complete without mention of the Organ family. He and Betty were the parents of a remarkable group of children. Each is a unique personality, and each has achieved distinction in his or her chosen field of endeavor. They are indeed a remarkable tribute to their parents. Claude had great pride in their accomplishments, but this was never expressed in a boastful manner. That would not have been consistent with his character. Claude Organ made his professional mark in a variety of fields, but his legacy as a husband and a father is easily a match.

Well done, thy good and faithful servant.

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Article Information

Correspondence: Arthur J. Donovan, MD, PO Box 94475, Pasadena, CA 91109-4475 (

Accepted for Publication: August 31, 2005.