A History of the Sunderland Society: an International Group for the Study of Peripheral Nerves.
David G. Kline MD
In the beginning, management of surgical nerve lesions were a part, albeit small, of broader meetings of general surgical, orthopedic, plastic, sometimes neurosurgical and even less frequently neurology meetings. The inception of what is now known as the Sunderland Society dedicated to the study and promulgation of the basic and clinical science of surgical nerve lesions can fairly, I believe be laid at the feet and more importantly the intellects of two men,–Morton Spinner MD and George Omer MD , MSc., both orthopedic surgeons ,who also had interest and background in Hand Surgery. Both men had experience with nerve injuries in the Army Medical Corps during the Korean conflict and Omer had remained in the Army Medical Corps for a number of years thereafter. In the late 70’s, they envisioned a Study Club for Surgical Nerve Lesions, Spinner had a vibrant practice in Hand Surgery in Brooklyn, New York, and was a Clinical Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine also in New York, whereas Omer was Professor and Chair of Orthopedics and Chief of Hand Surgery at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine in Albuquerque.
From 1977 to 1980, Omer and Spinner worked on developing a book entitled “The Management of Peripheral Nerve Problems” with multiple chapters contributed by authors interested in nerve. In the second edition of this book published in 1998 (Omer G, Spinner M, van Beek A: The Management of Peripheral Nerve Problems, 2nd Ed, Philadelphia, WB Saunders, 1998) there is a chapter written by George Omer entitled “Peripheral nerve injuries: 45-year odyssey…and the quest continues”. Here he addresses the founding of the Sunderland Society as follows:
From 1977 to 1980, George Omer and Morton Spinner developed a book entitled The Management of Peripheral Nerve Problems. They discussed the concept of a peripheral nerve study group with several colleagues, including J. Leonard Goldner and Raymond Curtis who were enthusiastic about the potential benefits for clinical practice.
In 1978, a group of surgeons interested in peripheral nerve pathology met at Duke University with J. Leonard Goldner as host. During this meeting a biannual program was discussed. A preliminary society was formed, with Raymond Curtis, J. Leonard Goldner, David Kline, George Omer, and Morton Spinner as the founding senior members of this society (Goldner letter, 1995).
The concept was crystallized at the mid-year meeting of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) in 1979, and The Peripheral Nerve Study Group was founded, with the purpose “to study in depth difficult problems and advances in peripheral nerve anatomy, physiology, and surgery”. Present at that meeting were Ray Curtis, Mike Jabaley, Joseph Kutz, George Omer, Morton Spinner, Jack Tupper, Jim Urbaniak and Shaw Wilgis. Leonard Goldner was absent but aware of the meeting. Morton Spinner was elected president and Shaw Wilgis served as secretary-treasurer.
The first formal program of “the Peripheral Nerve Study Group“ was held in New York City, in July 1980 with Morton Spinner as president. Sir Sydney Sunderland was a guest speaker. (More on the scientific content of the program will follow) At this meeting David Kline was elected president and George Omer was president-elect; Morton Spinner became past-president and Shaw Wilgis continued as secretary-treasurer. This was the first executive committee. It was determined that the “annual meetings” would be held approximately 18 months apart. The membership quickly expanded to include several more members from the United States as well as members from Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, and West Germany. Also at this meeting it was decided that the host of each subsequent meeting would also serve as president of the Nerve Study Club (subsequently The Sunderland Society). The meeting became a forum for informal exchange of ideas and experiences in peripheral nerve problems.
In September 1980, David Kline proposed that the name of the group be changed because it was similar to The Neurologic (Neurology) Nerve Study Group, which had met for a number of years. (Kline had attended several of their meetings both in New Orleans and at the Carville Hanson’s Disease Center outside Baton Rouge as a guest of Professor Richard Paddison. The meetings were interesting but not surgically oriented). The proposal was discussed by the executive committee. As president of the ASSH from 1978 to 1979, George Omer had invited Sir Sydney Sunderland to be the Founder’s Lecturer at the annual meeting; members of the ASSH were well aware of Sir Sydney’s professional contributions. In January 1981 David Kline wrote to all members: “ Morton Spinner and the executive committee have suggested Sunderland Club as our new name.”
The second formal meeting was held in New Orleans in November 1981 with David Kline as president. At the business meeting, the name of the group was changed from The Peripheral Nerve Study Group to the Sunderland Society.
The third meeting was held in Santa Fe in May 1983, with George Omer as president. There were 22 members from six countries as well as several guests in attendance. Sir Sydney was in attendance, with his wife Lady Gwen, and he subsequently attended every meeting until his death in 1993 (as did his wife for most but not all meetings).
Since the founding of the Sunderland Society in 1980, there have been many memorable meetings:
YEAR SITE PRESIDENT
1980 Glen Cove, NY, USA Morton Spinner
1981 New Orleans, LA, USA David G. Kline
1983 Santa Fe, NM, USA George E. Omer, Jr.
1984 Baltimore, MD, USA E. F. Shaw Wilgis
1986 Vienna, Austria Hanno Millesi
1988 Durham, NC, USA J. Leonard Goldner
1990 Louisville, KY, USA Joseph E. Kutz
1992 Malmo, Sweden Goran Lundborg
1993 Seattle, WA, USA Edward E. Almquist
1995 Zurich, Switzerland Victor E. Meyer
1997 Vail, CO, USA Michael E. Jabaley
1999 London, England James R. Urbaniak
2001 San Diego, CA, USA Richard M. Braun
2002 Baltimore, MD, USA Thomas M. Brushart
2004 Toronto, Canada Rajiv Midha
2007 Manchester, England D. A . (Gus) McGrouther
2008 Rochester, MN, USA Robert J. Spinner
2009 Shanghai, China Long-en Chen
2011 New York, NY David T.W. Chiu
2013 Leiden, The Netherlands Martijn J. A. Malassey
2015 Ann Arbor, MI, USA J. McGillicuddy & L.Yang
2016 Frankfurt, Germany K. Krishnan & T. Kretschmer
Members deceased and known by myself at this date are: William Bora, Raymond Curtis, J. Leonard Goldner, Robert Leffert, Algimentas Narakas, Morton Spinner, Sir Sydney Sunderland and Lady Gwen, Robert Tiel, and Jack Tupper.
Several have served as Secretary-Treasurer such as Shaw Wilgis, Michael Jabaley, Leo Happel, Tom Brushart, and more recently Rob Spinner.