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Galveston Surgeon Courtney M. Townsend, Jr., MD, FACS, Installed as 97th President of the American College of Surgeons


Courtney M. Townsend, Jr., MD, FACS, speaks during the Convocation of the 2016 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons

WASHINGTON, DC (October 17, 2016): Courtney M. Townsend, Jr., a general surgeon from Galveston, Tex., was installed as the 97th President of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) last night during the Convocation ceremony of the College. The Convocation preceded the opening of the annual ACS Clinical Congress, which is one of the largest international meetings of surgeons in the world.

Dr. Townsend is the Robertson-Poth Distinguished Chair in General Surgery, department of surgery, University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), and also a professor of surgery, department of surgery; professor of physician assistant studies, School of Allied Health Sciences; and graduate faculty in the cell biology program, UTMB.

A distinguished surgical investigator, Dr. Townsend’s research in gastrointestinal endocrinology and cancer has been supported through grants from the NIH and the American Cancer Society. He has authored or coauthored 416 articles in peer-reviewed publications, 123 articles in other publications, and 364 abstracts. He became an ACS Fellow in 1981.

Dr. Townsend earned his bachelor’s degree in history and English from the University of Texas, Austin. He then earned his medical degree and completed his internship and general surgery training at UTMB. Dr. Townsend completed a surgical oncology fellowship at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), and was a McLaughlin Fellow twice, a Jeane B. Kempner Fellow, an American Cancer Society Clinical fellow, and a National Institutes of Health (NIH) postdoctoral fellow.

Dr. Townsend’s first teaching position was as an adjunct assistant professor of surgery, division of oncology, department of surgery, at UCLA from 1974 to 1976. He then served in the U.S. Navy from 1976 to 1978 as a staff surgeon and surgical director in the intensive care unit at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, MD.

In 1978, Dr. Townsend returned to UTMB as an associate professor in the department of surgery. In 1981, he was promoted to Robertson-Poth Associate Professor of Surgery, and the next year he became director of the surgical research laboratory at UTMB. From 1983 to 1995, Dr. Townsend was the Robertson-Poth Professor of Surgery, and from 1987 to 1995 he served as interim director of the UTMB Cancer Center. He assumed his current roles as professor of physician assistant studies in 1989, as graduate faculty in the cell biology program in 2001, and as Robertson-Poth Distinguished Chair in General Surgery in 2009. Dr. Townsend also served as John Woods Harris Distinguished Chairman from 1995 to 2013.

Dr. Townsend has served many leadership roles at ACS, including Secretary (2006-2015) and Chair of the Board of Governors (B/G) (2004-2005), membership on the B/G Executive Committee (1999-2003), and as the ACS Governor from the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract (1986-1992). He has also served in various capacities on the Commission on Cancer (CoC) and on other ACS Committees. Dr. Townsend served on the CoC Committee on Approvals (1989-1994), the CoC National Cancer Data Committee and the National Cancer Data Base Governing Board (1989-1995), the ACS Committee for the Forum on Fundamental Surgical Problems and the Committee on Special Issues (both 1991-1994), the Committee on Papers (2000-2003), the Member Services Liaison Committee (2003-2004), and the Nominating Committee of the Fellows (2000-2002).

Currently, Dr. Townsend serves on the ACS Surgical Research and Education Committee, which he chaired for two years (1998-2000). At the local level, he served on the Southern Texas District #1 Committee on Applicants (1996-1999) and as President of the ACS South Texas Chapter (1988-1989).

Dr. Townsend has also served in leadership roles in several other medical organizations. He is past-director and chair of the American Board of Surgery (2000-2007); served on the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education Residency Review Committee for Surgery (1994-1999); American Pancreatic Association president (1992-1993); American Surgical Association president (2007-2008); Southern Surgical Association president (2004); and Texas Surgical Society council member (1997-1999). He is an honorary member of the Society of Black Academic Surgeons and the Association of Women Surgeons (AWS) and is a recipient of UTMB’s John P. McGovern Lifetime Achievement Award in Oslerian Medicine.

Dr. Townsend has been editor-in-chief of the Sabiston Textbook for Surgery: The Biological Basis of Modern Surgical Practice since 2000 and was the editor of Surgical Oncology (1992-1999). He has served on the editorial board of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons (JACS), Surgery, and The American Journal of Surgery. 

Last night, Dr. Townsend delivered his presidential address, “Do What’s Right for the Patient: Franklin H. Martin and the American College of Surgeons,” to surgeons from around the world who took the ACS Fellowship pledge and were conferred Fellowship in the American College of Surgeons (FACS). His remarks focused on Dr. Martin and the creation and expansion of ACS.

In addition, during last night’s Convocation Hilary Sanfey, MB, BCh, BAO, MCh, MA, MHPE, FACS, Springfield, IL, was installed as ACS First Vice-President; Mary C. McCarthy, MD, FACS, Dayton, OH, was installed as ACS Second Vice-President, and 1,823 surgeons from around the world were admitted into Fellowship in the American College of Surgeons (FACS).

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About the American College of Surgeons

The American College of Surgeons is a scientific and educational organization of surgeons that was founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical practice and improve the quality of care for surgical patients. The College is dedicated to the ethical and competent practice of surgery. Its achievements have significantly influenced the course of scientific surgery in America and have established it as an important advocate for all surgical patients. The College has more than 80,000 members and is the largest organization of surgeons in the world. For more information, visit


Devin Rose
Sally Garneski