In an obituary published in the Journal of the American Medical Association following his 1925 death, Albert J. Ochsner, MD, FACS, was called “One of the most eminent surgeons in the United States,” 1 ACS founder Franklin Martin, MD, FACS, a contemporary of Dr. Ochsner, nominated him to serve as president of the Clinical Congress of Surgeons of North America (CCSNA)—a clinical meeting for North American surgeons organized by the editors of Surgery, Gynecology & Obstetrics (SG&O).1 Both CCSNA and SG&O were precursors to the American College of Surgeons.
On November 25, 1912, Dr. Martin, Dr. Ochsner, John B. Murphy, MD, Edward Martin, MD, and George Brewer, MD, received the papers reflecting the College’s incorporation from the State of Illinois.2 As one of the founders of the American College of Surgeons (ACS), Dr. Ochsner was the College’s first treasurer in 1913 and was instrumental in the decision-making process that led to the College’s founding and its inaugural activities. In fact, Dr. Ochsner was the first chair of the Credentials Committee that evaluated the membership applications of thousands of surgeons who sought ACS Fellowship.2 Further, in 1913 Dr. Ochsner was a highly vocal proponent of the entry of Daniel Hale Williams, MD, an African American surgeon from Chicago, into Fellowship in the American College of Surgeons—over the protestations of some ACS members.2 Dr. Ochsner went on to serve as President of the ACS from 1923 to 1924.
A native of Wisconsin, Dr. Ochsner worked as a school teacher to pay for his University of Wisconsin bachelor’s degree.2 He earned his medical degree from Rush Medical College, in Chicago, before traveling to Vienna, Switzerland, and Berlin, Germany, to study in surgical clinics in those countries. He returned to the U.S. and started his medical practice in Chicago, after which he joined the staff of Augustana and St. Mary’s Hospitals in 1896. He became a professor of clinical surgery at the University of Illinois, a position he held until his death in 1925.1
Dr. Ochsner was commonly known as an advocate for treating appendicitis with the “starvation method,” which helped reduce the number of surgical procedures that arose when guidelines for the diagnosis and pathology of appendicitis were created. He also published a widely known handbook on the disease, Handbook on Appendicitis, in 1906, in addition to several books on the practice of surgery and a book about hospital management and construction.1
As a founder, President, and Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, Dr. Ochsner took great pride in his association with the College and believed that every Fellow had a responsibility to ensure that the profession continued to improve and grow. In his 1923 Presidential Address, he said “It is the duty of every Fellow to encourage young surgeons in the acquisition of the necessary qualifications [for ACS Fellowship], because it is exceedingly important to this country to give proper development to the next generation of surgeons.”3
- Deaths: Ochsner, AJ. J Am Med Assoc. 1925;85(5):374.
- Davis L. Fellowship of Surgeons. American College of Surgeons. 1960. 44, 68, 70, 94.
- Presidential address: Fellowship in the American College of Surgeons. Albert J. Ochsner, MD, FACS. Accessed 3/14/2013.
ACS Archives Highlights is a series showcasing the vibrant history of the American College of Surgeons, its members, and the history of surgery. For further information on our featured highlights, search the Archives Catalog or contact the ACS Archivist.