Joseph M. Mathews, MD
A Pioneer in Colorectal Surgery

Joseph M. Mathews, MD A Pioneer in Colorectal Surgery

Did you know that until 1899, proctology was not a well-known or respected profession? Sadly, due to ignorance, physicians shunned patients suffering from colon and rectal diseases.

Much like Kentucky frontiersman George Rogers Clark who put the Bluegrass State on the map, Kentucky born physician Joseph M. Mathews, MD, and his colleagues brought colorectal surgery into the medical mainstream. In 1899, they founded what later became the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons.

These pioneering physicians paved the way for over a century of technological advances and improved patient care. Dr. Mathew's contributions continue to influence colorectal specialists around the world and at the University of Louisville Section of Colon & Rectal Surgery.


The lack of interest and attention shown by doctors for patients afflicted with rectal problems inspired Dr. Mathews to go to London in 1878. There he studied with William Allingham and his associates at St. Mark's Hospital, then the world's leading medical institution in the treatment of colon and rectal disease. 

New Territory

In 1883, Dr. Mathews established a Department of Proctology at the Kentucky School of Medicine. It was the first recognized medical college to institute a separate department for colon and rectal diseases. 

Spreading the Word

A distinguished author and orator, Dr. Mathews was a lecturer on colorectal diseases at the Hospital College of Medicine in Louisville. His published works included the first professional journal devoted to proctology, known as "Mathews Medical Quarterly." His two best known books were "Treatise on Diseases of the Rectum, Anus and Sigmoid Flexure" and a popular volume entitled "How to Succeed in the Practice of Medicine." 


Dr. Mathews was the first U.S. physician to limit his practice to the treatment of diseases of the colon and rectum. He also was the first president of the American Proctologic Society (APS). His influence on the practice of medicine was recognized nationwide when he became the first proctologist to be elected president of the American Medical Association (AMA).  

Explore Exciting Frontiers

The Section of Colon & Rectal Surgery at the University of Louisville is proud share the same dedication to colorectal surgery as Dr. Mathews. We invite you to explore this exciting frontier of medicine and to take advantage of the resources offered on this Web site.

For more information about colorectal surgery, please visit the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons.