George W. Stephenson, MD, FACS, became an Assistant Director for the American College of Surgeons (ACS) in 1951; received its highest distinction, the Distinguished Service Award in 1973; and went on to serve another 25 years in Emeritus status as an ACS staff member.
Dr. Stephenson’s education and training started at Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA, from which he graduated in 1924, and continued with his medical training at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, in 1928. He interned at Geisinger Memorial Hospital, Danville, PA, from 1929 to1930, and earned a masters of science degree in surgery in 1932 from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. He then practiced surgery from 1934 to 1950 in Bloomington, IL, except for three years of active duty service in the United States Army. During World War II, Dr. Stephenson served in combat in the Aleutian and Mediterranean theatres and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1945. He became a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons in 1940.
Certified by the American Board of Surgery in 1946, Dr. Stephenson joined the College’s staff in August of 1950, first as Assistant Director of what was then the Credentials Office of the Fellowship Department. His illustrious career at the College also included service as Assistant Director of the Executive Department. In his work at the College, Dr. Stephenson dealt with requirements for and admission to Fellowship, the ACS Yearbook, judiciary issues, graduate education, insurance programs of service to Fellows, and scientific exhibits. In 1973, the focus of his responsibilities shifted to a project in international standards for graduate medical education, and he became a consultant to the Director and the executive staff in matters of broad educational interest. Four separate staff members representing seven ACS departments were assigned his previous duties.
Perhaps more than any of Dr. Stephenson’s service to the College, that with the most lasting impact has been his involvement with archival matters. He authored many historical and other publications and responded to hundreds of requests for historical materials from the College, from the records he had preserved and arranged for accessibility. In 1990, his book, American College of Surgeons at 75 was published by the College as, in his words, a companion piece to Loyal Davis’s Fellowship of Surgeons: A History of the American College of Surgeons, which was published in 1960.
The American College of Surgeons Distinguished Service Award was given to Dr. Stephenson in honor of his devoted service in every facet of the College’s activities, but particularly his contribution to the concept of collaboration with selected specialties for reviewing residencies and consideration of the needs of students from abroad; for his guidance and leadership of many Credentials Committees thereby improving the level of professional competence and ethical conduct of the Fellowship; for his wise representation of the College in difficult areas where policy was still evolving, and for his untiring assistance to members of the Board of Regents, Officers, Chapters, Committees, staff, and all segments of the College.
The ACS Archives contains many files of Dr. Stephenson’s notes representing a history of his work in archival and other matters, and these materials in turn provide documentation for a history of the Archives Program at the College.
- Hanlon CR. In memoriam: George W. Stephenson, MD, FACS. Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons, August 1998.
- Strauch GO. George W. Stephenson, MD, FACS (1902-1998): A Personal Remembrance. Arch Surg 1999; Vol 134: 678-679.
- George W. Stephenson receives the 1973 Distinguished Service Award. Clinical Congress News, Oct, 19, 1973.
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.