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Committee on Standardization of Medical and Surgical Supplies and Equipment of President Woodrow Wilson’s WWI General Medical Board

The Committee on Standardization of Medical and Surgical Supplies and Equipment

American College of Surgeons (ACS) founder Franklin H. Martin, MD, FACS, had many compelling prerogatives when he served as Commissioner and Chair of the General Medical Board, under President Woodrow Wilson’s wartime civilian Advisory Commission of the Council of National Defense. After his appointment in November 1916, Dr. Martin met regularly with the other members of the Advisory Commission: Samuel Gompers, Julius Rosenwald, Bernard Baruch, Hollis Godfrey, Walter Gifford and Howard Coffin, who were each responsible for one aspect of the country’s war preparations. These men were considered specialists in their areas of expertise: transportation, engineering, aircraft, raw materials, manufactured materials, labor, medicine and sanitation, cooperation of producers and cooperation and coordination of departmental activities. As a member of the Advisory Commission, Dr. Martin also met frequently with President Wilson’s cabinet members who formed the Council of National Defense: the Secretaries of War, Navy, Agriculture, Labor, Interior, and Commerce.

As chair of the General Medical Board, Dr. Martin invited deans of 95 accredited medical schools in the United States to attend a conference at which he appealed for 5,000 additional reserve officers in the medical service of the Army and Navy. Other contributions he made in the early days of the Council’s meetings were the establishment of recordkeeping procedures and parliamentary procedures, the introduction of a military curriculum into medical schools, and the standardization of medical supplies. Later, he was instrumental in getting legislation passed to raise the rank of medical personnel in the armed services.

Dr. Martin knew that several groups were working on the standardization of medical supplies and arranged to invite them all to Washington, DC to establish coordination and collaboration of their combined efforts. Although some standardization initiatives were going on, sufficient and accessible storage facilities for the supplies were inadequate.

The members of the Committee on Standardization of Medical and Surgical Supplies and Equipment are pictured here, and included the physicians Frank F. Simpson, MD, T.W. Richards, MD, George W. Crile, MD, Harvey Cushing, MD, Lt. Col. Carl R. Darnall, Charles L. Gibson, MD, Richard H. Harte, MD, Col. Jefferson R. Kean, Joseph A. Murphy, MD, Henry S. Plummer MD, and Assistant Surgeon General W.C. Rucker.


  1. Martin, Franklin H. The Joy of Living: an autobiography, Vol II. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran & Co., Inc. 1933: 85-87

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