Our History


A forum for advancing quality surgery in an atmosphere of congeniality was the aim of a small group of surgeons who met at the Detroit Athletic Club in January 1920 to
organize the Academy of Surgery of Detroit. The Academy was probably the first group of its type west of the Alleghenies. Dr. Angus McLean was the first president and Dr. Ira Downer the first secretary. A newspaper clipping in Ira Downer’s scrapbook states that “The new society was formed for the purpose of advancing scientific surgery… (it) is similar to the New York and Philadelphia organizations”.

A regular meeting was held at the headquarters of the Wayne County Medical Society on January 21, 1920, and Dr. Max Ballin presented a paper, although the subject was not recorded. Many prominent surgeons from North America have been speakers at the Academy over the years and in the four score years of its existence, the Academy has become exceptionally well known as a regional organization. Some highlights of the first fifty-six years of the life of the Academy were presented in a booklet prepared on the occasion of the Bicentennial of the United States in
1976. For many years, the meetings were held at the Detroit Athletic Club. Tradition has become another precept of the group, although evolution has modified some facets of the program. Great clinical trips to surgical centers all over the country every February have been discontinued. For many years, every April meeting has been given by the Department of Surgery, University of Michigan, but in 1984, the annual trip to Ann Arbor was revised with a group of U of M surgical faculty presenting at the Detroit Athletic Club.
A newer tradition dating to 1981 is the combined annual meeting with the Detroit
Surgical Association held in May. Secretaries of the Academy still move up to the post of president in many cases, but in less than the twenty years it took for Ira Downer, M.D., who was president in 1941-42.

Allen Silbergleit, M.D., Pb.D., Academy Historian

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