Evarts A. Graham, MD, FACS, received his MD degree from Rush Medical College in 1907. In 1918 he received a commission in the Army. Around that time, 50,510 U.S. soldiers serving in the World War I died in the great influenza epidemic that began in 1917. Pneumonia and empyema occurred as significant and frequently fatal complications of the flu. Dr. Graham served as a member of the Empyema Commission appointed by Surgeon General William Gorgas. Dr. Graham’s report on the Commission’s work led to laboratory research on the dynamics of open pneumothorax.
After his discharge from the army, Dr. Graham began his career as chairman of surgery at Washington University in St. Louis, affiliated with Barnes Hospital. He believed that the medical school should have a paid, full-time faculty. This status would relieve them of the pressure to make a living by private practice, and enable them to devote more time to research and teaching.
Dr. Graham developed the technique of cholecystography in 1924, working alongside with surgeons Drs. Warren Cole and Glover Copher. Dr. Graham was justifiably proud of having performed the first successful total pneumonectomy for carcinoma of the lung in 1933. His patient, Dr. James L. Gilmore, lived for 30 years after the surgery. Dr. Graham always remained friendly with him, inviting him on several occasions to surgical meetings as a willing, living exhibit of this milestone in the history of surgery.
Dr. Graham was admitted to the College as a founding member at the 1914 Convocation. He headed the local committee on arrangements for the 1932 Clinical Congress in St. Louis. At that meeting he became First Vice-President Elect of the College. This election marked 20 years of dedicated service to it. He served as College President (1940-1941), later as a member of the Board of Regents, and finally as Chairman of the Board of Regents (1951-1954).
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.