Societies come about because of perceived needs for mutual association for social and educational purposes.

Sidney Blair recognized that Chicago had several hand surgeons at different institutions working in silos. He thought that if hand surgeons could meet regularly to share medical information, the entire hand surgery community in the Chicago metropolitan area would benefit. In 1978, he approached William (Bill) Stromberg and Robert (Bob) Schenck about organizing a regional hand society.

Sidney Blair was trained in hand surgery by Adrian Flatt at the University of Iowa. In 1975, he was appointed Chief of Hand Surgery at Loyola Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois. Bill Stromberg received his medical training at Northwestern University Medical School. He joined the Chicago School of Hand Surgery at Northwestern in 1958. Bob Schenck received his medical degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago, after which he completed a plastic surgery residency and a hand surgery fellowship under the tutelage of J. William Littler in New York City. He returned to Chicago in 1972 and set up a hand surgery practice at Rush Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center (renamed Rush University Medical Center).

The new association of hand surgeons was named the Chicago Society for Surgery of the Hand (CSSH). Beginning in 1978, Bob Schenck hosted the group in the Marble Room at The Union League Club of Chicago. The room had a large octagonal oak table ideal for a group of eight. Five other hand surgeons were invited into the group. In addition to Sidney Blair, Bill Stromberg, and Bob Schenck, regular meeting attendees included William Dawson from Evanston Hospital and the brothers Allen and Jerry Murphy.

John (Jack) Bell was elected the first President of the CSSH for five years in honor of his seniority in the Chicago School of Hand Surgery at Northwestern. In 1984, Bob Schenck recommended creation of by-laws to follow that of the New York Hand Surgery Society. The Articles included board structure and a requirement for membership that hand surgery comprise 50% or more of an applicant’s practice.

Executive board office terms were originally one year. William Dawson became the second CSSH President in 1983, followed by Bill Stromberg in 1984, Sidney Blair in 1985, and Bob Schenck in 1986. Bob Schenck functioned as the group’s first Treasurer, and held that position for thirty years until his retirement in 2008. Jules Shapiro, a rheumatoid hand surgery specialist from Rush Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center, filled the Treasurer’s position during Bob Schenck’s presidency in 1986.

In 1984, the position of Program Chairman was informally added to the executive board structure. The first three chairmen, Michael Jablon, Daniel Mass, and Daniel Nagle, each held this position for three years. In 1992, the Program Chairman title was officially added to the by-laws as a starting point in the officer chain, and the terms of each officer were extended to two years. This policy ensured constancy of progressive leadership responsibility in the governance cycle.

Terry Light suggested the creation of a Stromberg Memorial Lectureship in 1993. The first Stromberg lecturer was James Strickland from Indianapolis. All Chicago area surgeons with an interest in hand surgery, regardless of CSSH membership, were invited to attend. To accommodate a larger group, the meeting was moved to The Metropolitan Club in the Sears Tower (renamed Willis Tower). With a rapid increase in the number of CSSH members to more than fifty hand surgeons, invitations to the Stromberg Memorial Lectureship to non-members eventually were discontinued.

In 1995, the Blair Lecture in Hand Surgery was established in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation at Loyola University. An annual custom developed for the guest speaker to present at the CSSH on the evening before or after presenting at Loyola. In the fall of 2008, the Schenck Lectureship was created with a generous fifty-thousand-dollar endowment by its namesake. The first Schenck lecturer was Tahseen Cheema, a hand surgeon who trained under the tutelage of Bob Schenck in 1980, and who eventually started a medical school in Pakistan.

The CSSH executive committee of five officers (Program Director, Secretary, Treasurer, Vice President, President) was expanded to six positions with the appointment of Bob Schenck to the role of Historian in 2008. The positions of Secretary and Treasurer were combined into one office concurrently: Secretary-Treasurer.

In 2017, the executive board members undertook a number of projects to update the CSSH, including construction of a web site, writing of new by-laws, incorporation, and submission of an application to the IRS for tax exemption status. An endowment for the Stromberg Memorial Lectureship was also established at Northwestern (renaming this lectureship to the Mason-Stromberg Lectureship, in honor of both Michael Mason and Bill Stromberg).

Since the inception of the CSSH in 1978, membership has included hand surgeons from the greater Chicago metropolitan area, Rockford, Peoria, and northern Indiana. The group is indebted to Bob Schenck for his long-term oversight of the group and to Patricia (Dru) Gilbert, an MBA from the University of Chicago, who for more than ten years (2006 to 2017) assisted the group in financial matters and reconstruction/preservation of group history.

Robert R. Schenck, MD
April 15, 2016

Revised by David M. Kalainov, MD
May 28, 2017