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The Founding of SGO

In January 1968, Hervy E. Averette, MD, and John J. Mikuta, MD, identified a need for the creation of a medical society focused solely on gynecologic oncology. The proposed purpose of the new organization was to “stimulate interest in gynecologic cancer and to promote the training and education of individuals in this area of interest.” The working title for the proposed organization was the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists (SGO).

In May 1968, Drs. Averette and Mikuta gathered other like-minded fellows of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to discuss the potential for this new organization. Those in attendance agreed to form a society consisting of obstetrician-gynecologists whose major interest was gynecologic cancer. In January 1969, interested parties were gathered to formalize the creation of SGO. Chairman George C. Lewis, Jr., MD, began the session with a challenge to the group:

If we are to seriously pursue the creation of a new society, we must consider its aims, for it is these aims that will be our reason for existence. The objectives should be to identify those principles, knowledges and skills related to gynecologic malignancy, to guide the development of a subspecialty devoted to this field of interest, to promote the training and certification of specialists in gynecologic malignancy, and to promote research, education and practice of this subspecialty.

In January 1970, the first Annual Meeting of SGO was convened. Shortly thereafter, the organization was incorporated in the State of Florida. Also that year, the American Board of Obstetricians and Gynecologists appointed several ad hoc committees to consider an advanced subspecialty certification. The Gynecologic Oncology Committee included five SGO members, including John L. Lewis, Jr., MD, as chairman. In 1972, the subspecialties in Obstetrics and Gynecology were formally approved by the American Board of Medical Specialists. The first written and oral examinations for a certification for Special Competence in Gynecologic Oncology were given in 1974.

SGO changed its name to the Society of Gynecologic Oncology in May 2011, recognizing SGO’s expanded membership, which now includes representatives from the entire cancer care team, including medical and radiation oncologists, pathologists, researchers, gynecologic oncology nurses and physician assistants, palliative care specialists and social workers.

In April 2012, SGO restructured itself as a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit entity and created a 501(c)(3) entity called the Foundation for Gynecologic Oncology. The Foundation became responsible for education, research, development and fundraising to complete the missions of both groups. As the new 501(c)(6), SGO assumed responsibility for clinical practice, government relations, coding and membership activities.

SGO Today

In January 2016, the SGO’s Foundation for Gynecology Oncology and the Foundation for Women’s Cancer (FWC) become one foundation within the SGO. The merged foundation retained the FWC name, capitalizing on its strong brand recognition in our advocacy and research community.

FWC continues to promote and encourage research in gynecologic oncology and will have the opportunity to significantly expand its investigational footprint. It will maintain core programs such as the National Race to End Women’s Cancer and build upon the success of the existing gynecologic cancer education courses and webinars.

Founding Members

  • Sidney L. Arje, MD
  • Hervy E. Averette, MD, Vice President
  • Hugh R.K. Barber, MD
  • David L. Barclay, MD
  • Clayton B. Beechman, MD
  • Herbert W. Birch, MD
  • Richard C. Boronow, MD
  • Charles R. Boyce, MD
  • H. Marvin Camel, MD
  • Denis Cavanaugh, MD
  • Joseph T. Crapanzano, MD
  • James W. Daly, MD
  • Edward J. Dennis, III, MD
  • Leo J. Dunn, MD
  • Henry Clay Frick, II, MD
  • Hans E. Geisler, MD
  • Laman A. Gray, Sr., MD
  • Saul B. Gusberg, MD, Council
  • J. Edward Hall, MD
  • Myroslaw M. Hreshchyshyn, MD
  • Robert R. Hughes, MD
  • John H. Isaacs, MD
  • Alan L. Kaplan, MD
  • James S. Krieger, MD
  • Philip J. Krupp, Jr., MD
  • Thomas B. Lebherz, MD
  • George C. Lewis, Jr., MD, President
  • John L. Lewis, Jr., MD, President-Elect
  • William E. Lucas, MD
  • John G. Masterson, MD, Council
  • George W. Morley, MD
  • John McLean Morris, MD
  • Richard F. Mattingly MD
  • Abe Mickal, MD
  • John J. Mikuta, MD, Secretary-Treasurer
  • James H. Nelson, Jr., MD, Council
  • Michael Newton, MD
  • Leonard Palumbo, Jr., MD
  • Roy T. Parker, MD
  • Warren E. Patow, MD
  • Humbert L. Riva, MD
  • J. William Roddick, Jr., MD
  • Felix N. Rutledge, MD
  • Alfred I. Sherman, MD, Council
  • Hugh M. Shingleton, MD
  • Charles J. Smith, MD
  • Julian P. Smith, MD
  • Richard E. Symmonds, MD, Council
  • John D. Thompson, MD
  • W. Norman Thornton, Jr., MD
  • Howard Ulfelder, MD
  • Paul B. Underwood, Jr., MD
  • John A. Wall, MD
  • W. Budd Wentz, MD
  • George D. Wilbanks, Jr., MD
  • Tiffany J. Williams, MD
  • John F. Wurzel, MD

Past Presidents

  • Warner K. Huh, MD 2019
  • Carol L. Brown, MD 2018
  • Laurel W. Rice, MD 2017
  • Jeffrey M. Fowler, MD 2016
  • Robert L. Coleman, MD 2015
  • Richard R. Barakat, MD 2014
  • Barbara A. Goff, MD 2013
  • Ronald D. Alvarez, MD 2012
  • John P. Curtin, MD 2011
  • Daniel Clarke-Pearson, MD 2010
  • David Mutch, MD 2009
  • Thomas Burke, MD 2008
  • Andrew Berchuck, MD 2007
  • Larry J. Copeland, MD 2006
  • Beth Y. Karlan, MD 2005
  • James W. Orr, Jr., MD 2004
  • Kenneth D. Hatch, MD 2003
  • J. Max Austin, Jr., MD 2002
  • Michael L. Berman, MD 2001
  • Carolyn D. Runowicz, MD 2000
  • William J. Hoskins, MD 1999
  • Karl C. Podratz, MD, PhD 1998
  • Peter E. Schwartz, MD 1997
  • David M. Gershenson, MD 1996
  • Stephen L. Curry, MD 1995
  • Rodrigue Mortel, MD 1994
  • John R. van Nagell, Jr., MD 1993
  • J. Taylor Wharton, MD 1992
  • Wesley C. Fowler, MD 1991
  • C. Paul Morrow, MD 1990
  • Clarence E. Ehrlich, MD 1989
  • William T. Creasman, MD 1988
  • Carmel J. Cohen, MD 1987
  • Robert C. Park, MD 1986
  • Hugh M. Shingleton, MD 1985
  • Julian P. Smith, MD 1984
  • Paul B. Underwood, Jr., MD 1983
  • Philip J. DiSaia, MD 1982
  • James H. Nelson, Jr., MD 1981
  • Leo D. Lagasse, MD 1980
  • Hugh R.K. Barber, MD 1979
  • Richard C. Boronow, MD 1978
  • Richard E. Symmonds, MD 1977
  • George W. Morley, MD 1976
  • Felix N. Rutledge, MD 1975
  • Saul B. Gusberg, MD 1974
  • John J. Mikuta, MD 1973
  • Hervy E. Averette, MD 1972
  • W. Norman Thornton, Jr., MD 1971
  • John L. Lewis, Jr., MD 1970
  • George C. Lewis, Jr., MD 1969

SGO History: Gone but not Forgotten

By Richard C. Boronow, MD, April 2012, founding member, 1969, president, 1979.

With the death of John Mikuta, MD, in January, 2013, the two initiators of SGO are gone. Hervy Averette, MD, died in 2005.

Beginnings of SGO

In January 1968 John attended a radiation therapy meeting in Miami. In the “Gynecology” section of the program Hervy presented a paper on his experience with radical hysterectomy for early cervical cancer. Neither man knew the other but John wrote Hervy and this initiated what proved to be a flurry of correspondence. They agreed to meet for the first time in New Orleans at the Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics (APGO) meeting coming up in March. They met and had lengthy discussions about their mutual sense of the emerging need for the creation of our society. Notes were jotted down on cocktail napkins at the SkyLite Lounge at the Monteleone Hotel where the meeting was held!

John contacted Michael Newton, MD, then-Director of American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and very recently Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Hervy contacted the Mayo Clinic’s Dick Symmonds, MD. Overtures were made to several others. Plans were then made for meeting at the ACOG convention in Chicago in May. This after-hours gathering was attended by John, Hervy, Dr. Newton, Dr. Symmonds, George Lewis, Jr., MD, Denis Cavanagh, MD, Leonard Palumbo, Jr., MD, and Julian Smith, MD.

First SGO Meeting

The decision was made, with over six months to prepare, to hold an organizational meeting in Miami in January, 1969. Dr. George Lewis was designated chairman, Dr. Symmonds, vice chair, Dr. Averette was in charge of local arrangements and the program (and he then involved John Lewis, Jr., MD, as his co-chair. Hervy and splendid wife Barkley handled the heavy duty of local arrangements. They obtained a bit of corporate support for the receptions. They arranged the meeting place at the oceanfront Key Biscayne Hotel and Villas, in beautiful and sparsely populated Key Biscayne, Florida. The daily room rate, which included all three meals “American Plan,” was $40. And for a couple, $54! Mikuta was designated “corresponding secretary.” And correspond, he did! This too was “heavy duty.”

Thirty-seven names were identified and John corresponded in detail with all, inviting each to attend this meeting, and of course, to be considered “founding members” of the envisioned Society. All were very interested. Three had conflicts and were granted excused absences. Thirty-four of us attended and each was assigned to one of the working committees, each chaired by one designated by the “coordinating committee”: Bylaws (Alf Sherman, MD); Program/Meetings (John Thompson, MD); Nominations (Dr. Palumbo); Membership (Jim Nelson, MD); Finance (Jerry Masterson, MD); Liaison (Dr. Newton).

The entire time was spent in the meetings of these committees, the discussions and drafting of conclusions and recommendations, and then the preparation for discussions and decisions which was scheduled for the final morning, before adjournment. Needless to say the “corresponding secretary” was busy! Material was collated and a Bylaws document was in preparation. Council, shortly after the 1969 meeting, identified an additional 20 individuals to be invited to attend the 1970 meeting, and also to be identified as founding members. More correspondence for our corresponding secretary!

In the interval Hervy obtained further legal input for incorporation of the new Society. By the time the 1970 meeting concluded, the Bylaws were approved. John then became the architect and prime mover for the creation of our society’s original seal.

The Great Debate

For this, and the next several next annual meetings, there evolved a debate and discussion involved retaining or moving oncology training out of the basic OB/GYN residency. I wrote in the January 1972 minutes: “QUESTIONNAIRE REGARDING THE PROPOSED SUBSPECIALTY BOARD: Acting upon the motion passed by the membership at the business meeting this morning the secretary was instructed to initiate a first mailing to all the membership requesting their specific questions of concern. Based upon the returns from this mailing a composite questionnaire will be synthesized with approval of Council, and the second mailing will consist of this composite to all members.”

Dr. John Lewis was our second president, followed by Norman Thornton, MD, then Hervy, then John. This sequence of leadership guided us through an often contentious and fairly evenly divided debate: to formally separate (and be a “board” of our own, establish training guidelines) or not to separate, (keep training within the specialty, out of concern that the basic surgical training of generalist OB/GYNs—already often deficient—will be impaired). But that is another story. And all know the outcome.

The Legacy of SGO’s ‘Initiators’

When John turned over his office to me he reminded me that the budget for the office of the secretary-treasurer was $250/year. He handed over the Society documents and correspondence which were entirely contained in an actual shoe box! And he made arrangements to transfer from the Philadelphia bank the total Society assets of $1,852.89! With John’s memorable smile and chuckle, he advised “We better not spend this in just one place!” The initiation fee for new members was $25. And the registration fee for the meetings was $10. All the numbers quoted in this memo are correct!

John and Hervy forged a bond that was truly a lifetime “best friend” relationship. And that included their wives Margaret and Barkley, even to this day. Now, both of our “initiators” are gone. For those of us who knew both men and enjoyed our mutual friendships, it was a blessing. And for all of us, our collective debt of gratitude is immeasurable. Gone, but never forgotten. R.I.P.

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