History & Mission

History of The Boston Surgical Society

President Russell Nauta in 2013

The BSS brings together a select group of surgeons from Boston and New England to create a continuous learning organization for the dissemination and exchange of information with the purpose of advancing patient care. The mission of the BSS is to advance the science, practice, and teaching of surgery, in its various branches.


The Surgical Review Club at the Massachusetts General Hospital was the precursor of today’s Boston Surgical Society.

The members of the Club were senior members of the MGH staff who gathered for professional and social interchange for a number of years beginning around the turn of the century. They kept no minutes and had no stated purpose or by-laws. Surgeons from other Boston hospitals were not invited to join. A group of rebuffed younger surgeons in the Boston community were inspired in 1911 to form their own surgical club. Several names for the new organization were suggested including the Burrell Society to honor Dr. Herbert Burrell who had chartered a relief ship, the Bay State, to transport sick and wounded Massachusetts soldiers and sailors from Cuba at the conclusion of the Spanish-American war. Another name was Fenway Surgical Club. They finally chose the name Boston Surgical Society at a meeting of January 18, 1912

In the meantime the older Surgical Review Club wanted a city-wide society similar to those in New York , Philadelphia and Chicago . A formal appeal was made to the younger surgical society to release the title “Boston Surgical Society” to the Surgical Review Club. After months of negotiating, correspondence and personal interviews, an agreement was reached in 1914. The two clubs joined as the Boston Surgical Society, Inc. The “Inc.” was added to distinguish it from the older society. One disgruntled member of the younger group complained, “so far as our Society goes, I feel we will be making a backward step in relinquishing our name to any body of men, however aged or famous.” The younger group continued, renamed the Chirurgical Society of Boston, until a final meeting recorded in March 1920.

Presidential Reflections

David C. Brooks, MD
Our 100th BSS President

I first went to a Boston Surgical Society meeting in 1976, invited by Nick Tilney, who was then head of our renal transplant service and wonderfully humorous raconteur. Through the years, the opportunity to have a Monday night dinner at the Harvard Club with senior surgeons from all the Boston hospitals was always special. Joining the Society after finishing residency was a foregone conclusion and I have enjoyed our meetings in the 35 years since. It was a great honor to serve as President during the centennial year. My father had been President many years before and it was fun to join him on the list of Presidents in the Red Book. The Society has always been a wonderful forum to meet other surgeons, introduce residents to their peers and the eminence grises of Boston, and generally have a pleasant evening with colleagues. I hope it will be the same throughout its second century.