American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

John G. Bowman, PhD First Director of the American College of Surgeons 1913-1924

John G. Bowman, PhD

John Bowman was president of the State University of Iowa, his alma mater, when Franklin Martin, MD, FACS, became interested in securing Bowman's services as the first Director of the American College of Surgeons. Bowman had demonstrated his principled behavior when he declared that the university was "an educational institution and not a political arena."

Bowman had taught at Columbia University for two years and was secretary of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching for four years before returning to his alma mater as president in 1911. He immediately became involved in issues surrounding medical ethics and fee splitting in connection with the university's medical school, a fact that came to Dr. Franklin Martin's attention and impressed him.

Dr. Martin presented Mr. Bowman's name to the College's Board of Regents at their meeting in Chicago on February 6, 1915, and he was hired as ACS Director at a salary of $6,000 annually. In his role as Director, Bowman became a leading proponent of hospital standardization after careful study of clinical case records, laboratories, staff organization, and personal inspections. He was the person most responsible for producing the first Minimum Standards for Hospitals in 1919, which although modified over the years, became the standard for hospitals worldwide—even today. Bowman was also a principal in the College's acquisition of its former home in Chicago, when he oversaw the purchase of the Nickerson mansion at 40 East Erie Street.

Bowman served in the capacity as Director of the College jointly with Dr. Franklin Martin for six years. He then returned to his academic life, accepting the chancellorship of the University of Pittsburgh in 1921.

* From Fellowship of Surgeons: A History of the American College of Surgeons, Loyal Davis, MD, FACS, 1960, American College of Surgeons.

ACS Archives Highlights is a series showcasing the vibrant history of the American College of Surgeons, its members, and the history of surgery. For further information on our featured highlights, search the Archives Catalog or contact the ACS Archivist.