Harold M. Stephens was approached by Franklin H. Martin, MD, FACS to become an interim Director of the American College of Surgeons in 1921, after John Bowman resigned the position to return to his chosen field of teaching. Stephens, a judge from Utah, was admitted to the Utah bar in 1912 and began practice in Salt Lake City. Dr. Martin encountered him at the 1920 ACS Sectional Meeting in Salt Lake City where Stephens spoke on the elevation of hospital standards from a layman’s viewpoint. Dr. Martin was impressed with Judge Stephens, particularly because of his knowledge and understanding of the problems of the medical profession. In his earlier years Judge Stephens had taken a pre-medical course to prepare for the study of medicine, but later decided in favor of the law. However, he never lost his interest in the medical profession.
During Judge Stephens’ tenure as Acting Director, the American College of Surgeons' major activities included the Clinical Congress; hospital standardization activities; taking a stance against fee splitting; fund-raising activities for the Murphy Memorial, library, and department of literary research; organizing sectional meetings; and orchestrating activities for the Art Committee, Bone Sarcoma Committee, the Committee on Industrial Surgery, and postgraduate instruction. He traveled to numerous sectional and other meetings where he represented the College.
Judge Stephens was originally appointed Acting Director by the ACS Regents on December 14, 1920 for a four-month period. The interim appointment was extended and on June 7, 1921 he was offered the permanent position of Director of the American College of Surgeons. He declined the offer in favor of returning to his chosen profession of law but not before making some recommendations to the College. He represented the College as legal counsel from 1921 to 1931 as his services were required. He had a distinguished career in law with appointments by President Roosevelt as associate justice, U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. from 1935-48, and as chief justice of that body by President Truman in 1948.
For more information about Judge Harold Stephens and his association with the American College of Surgeons, including notes on an interview with him, see Fellowship of Surgeons by Loyal Davis, MD, FACS, and the ACS Archives. Both sources are also official references on the early history of the College.