Malcolm T. MacEachern, MD, CM, holds a particularly interesting place in the history of the American College of Surgeons (ACS). From 1935 to 1949, he served alongside Bowman C. Crowell, MD, as co-Executive Director of ACS, the only time in the College’s more than 100 year history that two people have shared the position. Also, as a medical professional Dr. MacEachern was known not for his abilities as a surgeon (he was one of the few ACS Executive Directors who was not one), but as an indispensable contributor to hospital modernization and the development of adequate standards in hospital care.
Throughout his life, Dr. MacEachern was known as a universally honored “world figure in the hospital field.”1 Upon his death in February 1956, he was remembered for his service to and importance in the modernization of hospitals. He continually emphasized one fundamental idea during his career: “Everything we do must be with the patient in mind.”2 Dr. MacEachern regarded the patient as “the sole reason for the existence of the medical profession and hospitals.”2
It was in no small part due to Dr. MacEachern’s contributions that hospitals developed “rapidly and universally.”3 It was under his supervision that a hospital approvals program was developed for which hospitals were inspected and, if they passed, received a certificate of approval. A tribute to Dr. MacEachern from the ACS noted that the certificate of approval for hospitals, awarded by the program he supervised, “was so highly regarded and zealously sought by most hospitals that tremendous efforts toward hospital improvement were instituted to meet the College’s requirements.”3
Among Dr. MacEachern’s professional achievements are serving as President of the American Hospital Association (1924-25), President of the International Hospital Association (1938-41), President of the Chicago Medical Society (1946-47), Associate Director and Director of Hospital Activities at the ACS (1923-50), Director of Hospital Administration at Northwestern University (1943-1956), and many others. As a 1956 International College of Surgeons Journal article memorializing Dr. MacEachern noted, “A complete list of the important positions and offices held by Dr. MacEachern would be difficult to compile, as would be the enumeration of the countless honors bestowed upon him in recognition of his significant contributions to humanity. His personal accomplishments and professional achievement are encyclopedic.”2
Dr. MacEachern was the author of the major work in hospital management, the more than 1,000 page book, Hospital Organization and Management. He published numerous other contributions to the hospital literature, including his other book Medical Records in the Hospital. Upon his retirement as the director of hospital activities for ACS, he was referred to as “the greatest single figure in the hospital and medical world today,” and as “Mr. Hospital.”4
Dr. MacEachern’s abilities and reputation earned him the honor of having August 16, 1954 named the first Malcolm T. MacEachern Day, with a reception attended by over 400 people. The reception was held by the Chicago Hospital Council and Hospital Management and was attended by friends and colleagues of Dr. MacEachern, many of whom knew him affectionately as “Dr. Mac.” In response to being honored with this celebration, Dr. MacEachern said, “Since Hospital Management has been so kind to sponsor August 16 as Dr. Malcolm T. MacEachern Day in the years to come I would like to see it develop as a day in which hospitals take stock of their work.”5
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.