Warren H. Cole, MD, FACS is perhaps best known as the 1924 co-developer—with Evarts Graham—of the process used in the diagnosis of gall bladder disease, whereby the gall bladder was visualized with x-rays by using contrast media. He later became a leading advocate of cancer control and treatment, after observing in some of his clinical research studies that cancer cells appeared to spread through the blood stream, thus sometimes spreading cancer after surgical procedures.
He became known at the American College of Surgeons, where he served as President for the 1955/1956 term, as a particularly beloved professor and mentor of his residents, becoming a leader in the development of the surgeon scientist.
Dr. Cole was born in Clay Center, KS, and graduated from Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, in 1920. He served internships in St. Louis and ultimately served on the surgical faculty of Washington University School of Medicine, rising to the rank of associate professor. In 1936 Cole was recruited by the University of Illinois as its first full time professor of surgery and headed its department of surgery for 30 years.
During his long tenure at the University of Illinois, Dr. Cole focused particularly on cancer etiology and treatment. He became a member of numerous associations and societies and president of most of them including the American Surgical Association, Western Surgical Association, Central Surgical Association, Southern Surgical Association, the Halsted Surgical Club, the Chicago Medical Society, the Chicago Surgical Society. He was chair of the Illinois State Medical Society’s Committee on Cancer Control, and president of the American Cancer Society in 1959/50. After that he served the American Cancer Society as director at large.
Particularly beloved by his students, he continued the active mentorship of his trainees right up to his 90th birthday celebration by the Warren H. Cole Society which had been formed by his students. Today, the Warren and Clara Cole Foundation continues to support a scholarship for research training for future academic surgeons. The endowed Warren H. Cole Professorship at the University of Illinois also honors him and his achievements.
For more information about the role of Dr. Warren H. Cole in the American College of Surgeons, see the ACS Archives.
- ACS Clinical Congress News, Nov. 19, 1954
- Cance, William G., “Warren H. Cole, MD: Visionary surgeon-scientist and mentor,” Surgery, November 2001: 891-92.
- Connaughton, Dennis, Warren Cole, MD, and the ascent of scientific surgery, The Warren and Clara Cole Foundation, Publishers, Chicago, Distributed by the University of Illinois Press, Champaign, IL. 1991.
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.