Our History

Walter A. Fansler, M.D., of Minneapolis established the Section of Proctology at the University of Minnesota in 1916, the first such program in the United States. A year later, he initiated a preceptorship to train surgeons in proctology.

Fansler was elected president of the American Proctologic Society in 1929 and was instrumental in establishing the American Board of Proctology in 1935. In 1950, the "modern era" of the University of Minnesota training program in colon and rectal surgery began when William C. Bernstein, M.D., a student of Fansler, worked with Owen H. Wangensteen, M.D., the first Chief of the Department of Surgery, to establish a formal proctology residency at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine. By then, proctology was evolving into today's specialty of colon and rectal surgery, encompassing not only proctology but also non-anorectal conditions and diseases of the intestinal tract such as cancer, diverticular disease, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Candidates for Board certification were required to complete three years of general surgery residency followed by a two-year residency in colon and rectal surgery.

From its inception, Dr. Bernstein created a training program based not only at the University Hospital but also in his own private surgical practice, the Veterans Hospital and the Ancker County Hospital in St. Paul. He recognized the value of serving different populations and wanted to combine the academic and research strengths of the University with a community-based surgical practice. This "town-gown" collaboration remains a hallmark of the University of Minnesota Colon and Rectal Surgery Residency Training Program. In 1958, following the retirement of Fansler, Wangensteen promoted Bernstein to the rank of Clinical Professor of Surgery and Director of the Division of Proctology within the Department of Surgery.

In 1960, the American Board of Proctology changed its name to the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery, thus reflecting the evolution in the scope of practice of the specialty. Subsequently, the fellowship training rules were changed to require candidates first to complete a full general surgical residency and then to complete a minimum of a one-year fellowship in colon and rectal surgery. Concomitantly, the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery required successful completion of the American Board of Surgery examinations before a resident could be eligible to take the written and oral examinations leading to certification as a specialist in colon and rectal surgery.

In 1972, Bernstein retired and John S. Najarian, M.D., who had succeeded Wangensteen as Chief of the Department of Surgery in 1967, appointed Stanley M. Goldberg, M.D., to be the Chief of the Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery. Over the next 20 years, Goldberg expanded and strengthened the Division following the Bernstein tradition of staffing the University of Minnesota Training Program in Colon and Rectal Surgery with a community-based, volunteer clinical faculty. Under Goldberg's leadership, the Division faculty expanded and formed the largest colorectal surgical specialty group practice in the world, Colon and Rectal Surgery Associates. The Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery became known throughout the surgical world for its excellent training program, its postgraduate courses, its surgical innovations, its many publications in the surgical literature, and its hospitality to visitors from throughout the world. The fellowship program was highly sought after, and by 1982, four resident training positions were offered each year.

In 1991, the Minnesota Colon and Rectal Foundation was established to "promote excellence in colorectal health care by supporting specialty training, education, and research in colorectal disorders" with David A. Rothenberger, M.D., as the elected president. In 1992, Rothenberger succeeded Goldberg as the Chief of the Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery and was elected the President of Colon and Rectal Surgery Associates. The Minnesota Colon and Rectal Foundation successfully conducted a "Continue the Tradition" fund-raising campaign with broad-based community support to establish a sufficient endowment to cover costs for two of the four fellowship positions. Research programs in pelvic floor disorders and colorectal cancer were established and support was developed for colorectal laparoscopy training, proctology research and a monthly inflammatory bowel disease conference.

In 1997, Ann C. Lowry, M.D. succeeded W. Douglas Wong, M.D. as the Division’s fellowship director. Dr. Lowry remained Program Director until 2008 when she became the President and CEO of Colon and Rectal Surgery Associates, Ltd. She also served as the first woman President of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons in 2007. In 2002, a closer integration was created between the University and the large private, community-based surgical practice of Colon and Rectal Surgery Associates that had served as the faculty for the Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery, Dr. Rothenberger accepted a position at the University as Professor of Surgery and John P. Delaney chair in Clinical Surgical Oncology. Dr. Rothenberger was appointed Interim Chairman of the Department of Surgery during the 2006-07 academic year, and now serves as Deputy Chairman. In 2000, the Stanley M. Goldberg Chair in colon and rectal surgery was established and has been held by Robert D. Madoff, M.D. since 2004. In 2002, the Division expanded its fellowship program from four to five trainees. Judith L. Trudel, M.D. has been the Program Director since that time. In 2005, Dr. Madoff was appointed Chief of the Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery.