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THE SURGEONS' TRAVEL CLUB was founded in Albany, New York on October 10, 1941. Its purpose was to provide a society for a small group of congenial young surgeons who could determine their own programs, acquainting themselves directly with the surgical experience in various teaching centers, while sharing each others' opinions and companionships.
Leonard Stalker of Rochester, New York, was the primary organizer, stimulated by the advice and enthusiasm of two of his former preceptors at the Mayo Clinic: John deJ. Pemberton and Donald C. Balfour. The Club's eight founding members had established their friendships and mutual respect over very recent years as Fellows in Surgery at the Mayo Foundation. All were practicing in the northeastern United States and thus reasonably accessible to each other. They were: Albert Behrend of Philadelphia, Winfield Butsch of Buffalo, Robert Coffey of Washington, George Lord of Hanover, New Hampshire, John McGowan of Quincy, Massachusetts, Kaare Nygaard of White Plains, New York, Leonard Stalker of Rochester, New York, and C. Stuart Welch, the host of the Albany meeting.
Initially it was planned to have at least two meetings a year; to have no officers but a secretary-treasurer; to limit the size of the group to twenty five active members who would become inactive at age 50; to limit the annual dues to ten dollars and to invite wives to each meeting.
The second meeting was held in Boston five months later. Other friendships had developed and brought in three new members, only one of whom had a Mayo experience. From then on, new members were recruited from various locations and various backgrounds of training. There was thus developed over a period of years a group of mutually respected surgeons who became valued and close friends. Much of the foundation of congeniality proved due to the firmly entrenched custom of wives attending each meeting.
World War II interrupted the growth of the organization by its demands on those in and out of the military services. Several were unable to attend the third meeting, held in Philadelphia in the fall of 1942, and the fourth meeting held in Baltimore a year or so later, was even further depleted. Meetings could not be resumed until 1946 when the society met in Boston for the second time, and from then on meetings occurred annually except for 1968.
Nine years after its founding, the Club decided to increase membership to thirty-five by adding ten members of approximately the original age span, thus providing inevitably for its eventual dissolution. That was postponed slightly be moving the age of each members' inactive status to 55. At the same time it was decided to create those offices common to incorporate those decisions. This was completed and approved in 1951 and remained in effect for twenty years.
In 1971, a new category of membership, that of Senior Member, was established, eligibility for which could occur at age 65 or ten years of active membership. A committee was authorized to present a revised constitution. This was done and it was approved in 1972, formalizing the Senior Member category and thus freeing vacancies for new active members.
The projected demise of the organization by gradual attrition was becoming of immediate concern. No one looked forward to becoming the last leaf upon the tree. And there was also a growing sense of regret at the eventual passing of the Club which so many had come to consider their most valuable society. At subsequent meetings, the future of the organization was increasingly a subject of discussion.
Thus it was that in 1978, the Surgeons' Travel Club voted to perpetuate itself, authorizing the early expansion of active membership to forty by the addition of definitely younger surgeons. A constitution providing for this was adopted. In 2004 the Travel Club was incorporated as a 501(c)6 organization and adopted bylaws.
When in 1941 Leonard Stalker had informed his former chief, Dr. Pemberton, that the Surgeons' Travel Club had become a reality, he received the following reply: "I think it is wonderful for you to have such a group. It is my guess that time will prove that this is one of the most important steps you will take in your medical career. You will, of course, join other societies, but I believe that this group will prove the most profitable one, not only in terms of intellectual advancement, but also in terms of permanent friendships."
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