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The history of the SSATF truly starts with the founding of the parent organization, the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract (SSAT). The Society was incorporated on March 30, 1960, and was initially named the Association for Colon Surgery. In the beginning it was thought advisable to limit the Society's interest to surgery of the colon, but the name was changed to The Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract to reflect the Society’s wide interest in abdominal surgery. To this day, the SSAT remains the only North American organization focused on surgical problems of the entire alimentary tract. (Read a more complete history of the SSAT.)
The Society's founder, Dr. Robert Turell, in his presidential address, spoke of his dream of creating a research and educational foundation for alimentary surgery. In practical terms, creating a research and educational foundation required the development of an enduring source of funding. Over the next three decades, the Society struggled with strategies to ensure such funding, but in 1997, with the establishment and publication of the first issue of the Society’s own peer-reviewed journal, The Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery (JOGS), and on the tenth anniversary of the Career Development Award, the Board of Trustees voted to establish the SSAT Foundation.
The SSAT Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract. The Foundation was established in 2000 to help the Society achieve its ongoing mission. Research and education remain the cornerstone of fulfilling the Society’s mission, and the Foundation seeks to support the SSAT’s current initiatives including the Career Development Award for young faculty members, the Residents and Fellows Research Conference held at the time of Digestive Disease Week, the Doris and John L. Cameron Guest Oration, the Carol and Tom R. DeMeester U.S./Canadian Traveling Fellowship, the Karen and Josef E. Fischer International Traveling Fellowship, and the Maja and Frank Moody State-of-the-Art Lecture. Annually since 1987, the Society has granted at least one Career Development Award to promising surgeon scientists, many of whom have risen in their surgical sub specialty ranks and become Chairs of their respective Departments of Surgery and continue to receive ongoing NIH or NGO extramural funding. Clearly, the contribution dollars donated by SSAT Members over the past decade has enabled these surgeon scientists to play a leadership role in the advances seen in clinical and research surgical scholarship. The return on the investment of the SSATF contributions has redounded to the benefit of the quality of life and safety of surgical patients nationwide.