The Role of the Member Society Surgeon

The Role of the Member Society Surgeon

By Naomi Mann, MD - Surgeon General - General Society of Mayflower Descendant

In the past, the role of the Member Society Surgeon was been rather an amorphous one.  Questions often arise … how did this position come about and why is there even a position on the state and general boards for such an office?  Many other genealogical and historical organizations simply do not have such a position and certainly, we don’t medically treat anyone.   So what is our role?   

First, we need to examine the role of surgeon/doctor historically.   It was quite important to the original Mayflower colonists for good reason…survival.  Dr. Samuel Fuller served in that capacity and was an important member of the colony not only serving as physician but deacon and elder.  Secondly, the position was assumed to have been there with the formation of the first board formed in the New York society.  Dr. J. Bayard Backus was a founding member and only physician who could have filled this position but since there are no known notes from that first meeting, it is conjecture (note:  it was surprising for me to find another Backus cousin also a physician).  With the formation of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants shortly thereafter, this was established, either by convention or insight, included in the bylaws.

Overtime, the position became less specific and less significant in its traditional meaning.  It came to transform into a figure-head position at best but care for the general well being of the society was still served.   The Bylaws of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants are vague with the following description:  

Article 6, Section 8: Surgeon General The Surgeon General shall be duly licensed to practice medicine. The Surgeon General shall perform such duties as are prescribed by the General Congress, General Board of Assistants, Executive Committee, and/or the Governor General

A currrent role of State Surgeons should include the following:

  1. General welfare of the Society

This is still the primary concern.  We are not here to treat but we can be knowledgeable first responders and good Samaritans should the need arise.  Know where the first aid kit and AED are located at your state/member society meeting site.  Know where the closest hospital, urgent care and pharmacy are located then post it for those attending.  

  1. DNA, Genetics, and what I call, the Science of Genealogy

Today, the advent of DNA studies has really breathed new life into this position.  Genetics and Genealogy have never been that far apart but new technology has brought it together more than ever before.  It is imperative to keep abreast of new developments and impart that knowledge to our members; give talks/present power points, be a part of the DNA committees, and know the GSMD studies and its moderators.

Finally, define your own role.  What issues are there? What needs to be addressed or what doesn’t.  What can you bring to the table?