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Special Article
November 1, 2005

In Memory: Claude H. Organ, Jr, MD: The Reassuring Voice of Optimism Across the San Francisco Bay

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Global Health Sciences, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco.

Arch Surg. 2005;140(11):1037-1038. doi:10.1001/archsurg.140.11.1037

One of the great privileges of my academic life has been to have Claude as a close and inspiring friend and colleague. I know others will write about his enormous contributions to American and world surgery. I have, therefore, decided to write more personally and speak to what his presence in Oakland, Calif, meant to me—the reassuring voice of optimism across the San Francisco Bay.

I will miss the frequent telephone calls we exchanged across the San Francisco Bay, sharing our successes and our challenges. We confided in each other problems of the moment, and from my dealings with him, I learned that nothing is more important than having a trusted friend with whom you can share your happy and sad moments. Almost always, I got off the telephone with Claude with a smile on my face and with the belief in my heart that everything would turn out for the better. And often I got off the telephone laughing uncontrollably because, as only Claude could, he had shared a very funny joke that was just appropriate for the occasion.

An attribute of Claude that never ceased to inspire me was his uncompromising commitment to the career and well-being of his trainees. The calls from the East Bay were often about his trainees and about his plans for their research training. They obviously gave him a great joy and constituted an important part of his academic life. Given all the academic and municipal politics at the time, no one could have been able to establish the stellar general surgery residency that Claude created in the East Bay. He had a gift for identifying and recruiting trainees with potential. Once he did, he was totally committed to them as a teacher, mentor, and loving father figure. He made sure that his residents had access to training in the best research laboratories in the best universities in the country. Characteristically, even when these residents were away during their research training, he kept in close touch with the students and with their supervisors and assured that, at all times and in every way, they were well taken care of professionally and personally. I mention these details to indicate how Claude made his trainees his everyday concern. He loved them and was fiercely proud of their accomplishments.

Claude was a giant among men, a hero and inspiration to his trainees and to all minority academic surgeons. He was a giant in American surgery and one of the most significant American academic surgeons of the 20th century. He will be sorely missed for these and all the many other attributes that are described by others in this special edition of the ARCHIVES. But in my personal world, it is that reassuring voice of optimism and friendship that frequently came on the telephone lines from across the San Francisco Bay that I will miss.

Correspondence: Haile T. Debas, MD, Global Health Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, 3333 California St, 285, San Francisco, CA 94143-0443 (hdebas@globalhealth.ucsf.edu).

Accepted for Publication: August 31, 2005.