Our History

Preface to HANDBOOK for the St Louis Gynecological Society (1997-98)

The concept for this handbook began in Chicago in 1992, during the meeting of the Central Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. It was during this meeting that I was introduced to a similar handbook for the Chicago Gynecological Society. I felt that a handbook for the St. Louis Gynecological Society would help unify our members and our Society. The concept for this handbook remained only a concept until Dr. Tamara Ostapowicz used her influence as president of the St. Louis Gynecological Society (1996-1997) to produce this first edition. This publication follows the mammoth task of Dr. Samuel D. Soule and Mr. Hollister S. Smith who published The Saint Louis Obstetrical and Gynecological Society 1877-1980. Copies of their book are kept at the St. Louis Metropolitan Medical Society on Lindell Avenue. Their book is highly recommended reading for anyone who is interested in a detailed history of our Society. The following is a brief, but important, historical summary of the St. Louis Gynecological Society from that book.

The St. Louis Medical Society was founded on Dec. 25, 1835. The first presentation to that Society was the obstetrical topic “Does an Epidemic of Contagious Puerperal Fever Exist at This Time in St. Louis?” Among its members was Dr. George Engelmann (1809-1881), who is credited for the first use of forceps in the St. Louis area. Following the Civil War, there was friction between those who championed the Northern and Southern causes. This division was not seen among the ten founding members of the St. Louis Obstetrical and Gynecological Society in 1877. Original presentations to the Society included topics such as “Treating Acute Cystitis”, “Intrauterine Injections”, “Sterility”, “Abnormal Development of the Gravid Uterus,” “Placenta Previa” and “Eclampsia Puerperalis.”

A steadfast presidential address was given on Nov. 15, 1883, by then president Dr. Timothy L. Papin. In his address, he stated that the three purposes of the Society by founding members were “advancement of medical science in general; and as a sequence, individual improvement of each member as a more efficient and more perfect practitioner; and finally, and paramount to all, being the means of bringing forth a substantial contribution to the advancement, scientific and practical, of obstetrics and gynecology.” This was followed by another important presidential address on Dec. 20, 1894, by then president Dr. W. Hutson Ford. He stated “As regards the critical function of the Society, we find it to our advantage to criticize the opinions of members expressed during the meetings of the Society and also to express our approval or disapproval of the modes of practice and new theories which come to us from other parts of the world. A society like this is therefore expressly and distinctly critical. This is of great advantage, and has conduced greatly to the improvement of our members … Therefore, I think it is the duty of the Society to endeavor to advance the cause of medical science by as much original work as possible.” In the same year, the St. Louis Obstetrical and Gynecological Society arranged that theAmerican Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology should be the official journal of the Society.

During the years 1908 to 1920, the Society became the Obstetrics and Gynecology section of the St. Louis Medical Society. It was during this period that the topic of radium, Roentgen Ray, was presented for the treatment of fibroids and carcinomata by Dr. Ernst Jones. “This new treatment…will revolutionize the treatment of certain gynecological affections, …and the time is not far distant when the use of the knife in the curative radical treatment for fibroids of the uterus will no longer be practiced.”

Drs. E. Lee Dorsett and Otto H. Schwarz were responsible for reactivation of the St. Louis Gynecological Society in 1922. At that time, there were eighteen members of the Society. No reason is given in the minutes for the reorganization, however, in the same year; the Society was listed on the title page of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology for the first time.

In 1929, the Central Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists was founded. Our Society was host to the first meeting of this new Society on Dec. 6-7, 1929, held at the University Club. The American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology was founded on Sept. 16, 1930, in Niagara Falls. One of the nine founding members of the American Board was Dr. Grandison D. Royston of St. Louis, a member of the St. Louis Obstetrical and Gynecological Society. Our Society has maintained a close historical tie with the American Board since board certification is required for active membership to our Society.

Several other landmark events in the history of the St. Louis Gynecological Society are as follows. The first Tri-City meeting (Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City) was held in Kansas City in April 1947. During the 1940s, Dr. Eugene G. Hamilton made his excellent observations on Rh factor and its management. Drs. Helman C. Wasserman and T.K. Brown created the Maternal Welfare Committee of the St. Louis Gynecological Society in 1950. In the mid 1950s, the Society began inviting speakers from other areas of the country and the world to address the Society’s meetings. By the early 1960s, ancillary sources were solicited to help pay for outside speakers. It was during this era that the present format of quarterly meetings was begun.

The St. Louis Gynecological Society is rich in history, not only locally, but also nationally and internationally. Our Society is the fifth oldest society of obstetrics and gynecology in the United States. We represent the oldest specialty society in St. Louis that is till convening.

It was and is my hope that this handbook will help to rekindle some of the pioneer spirit that our predecessors have forged before us. Recent changes in the format of our Society’s meetings have laid the base for the future. The “Scientific Meeting,” conceived by Dr. Hung N. Winn and implemented during my tenure as president (1993-1994), will act as the nucleus to encourage original research by our members. Our founding members should be pleased to see that we are continuing the tradition of the three purposes of the Society.

William E. Houck, MD

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