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Biographical entry Hawley, Paul Ramsey (1891 - 1965)

Hon FRCS 1959; MD Cincinnati 1914; FACS; FACP; DPH; Hon FRCP; Hon FRCS Ed.

21 January 1891
24 November 1965
Washington DC
Military surgeon


Paul Hawley was born on January 21, 1891, the son and grandson of doctors, and he practised with his father in the small Indiana town where he was born, and thus learned the hard way the duties of a country family doctor. He had graduated with the MD degree of the University of Cincinnati in 1914, and being early attracted to military medicine was commissioned as a First lieutenant in the Medical Reserve Corps, US Army, and went on active service in 1916. The following year he was appointed with the same rank in the Regular Army, and served in France for a year during the first world war. He then held various appointments in the United States, the Philippines and Nicaragua and managed also to take a course in preventive medicine at Johns Hopkins University which earned him a Doctor's degree in Public Health. From 1931 onwards he proceeded to gain wide experience and increasing responsibility in administration, a field, in which by temperament and personality he was particularly well fitted to specialize with success.

In the second world war he came as the medical member of the military task group sent to England in 1941 before the United States entered the war, and later became chief surgeon in the European theatre of operations, distinguishing himself for his administrative ability, but especially for the way he cooperated with the high command of the allied forces. It was during this period that he was a frequent visitor to the College where members of the Council came to appreciate both his sterling character and his great fund of "Shaggy-dog" stories.

In 1946 he retired from the Army with the rank of Major-General and became the Chief Medical Director of the Veteran's Administration, and it was in his mind to associate veterans' hospitals with medical schools. It was his obvious sincerity and integrity that won the confidence of the initially suspicious members of the participating bodies. Later he resigned from the Veterans' Administration to become the Chief Executive Officer of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield voluntary health and hospitalization insurance schemes which were favoured in the United States as the alternative to socialized medicine. And it was because he showed once more his outstanding gifts as an administrator that Arthur Allen, then Chairman of the Board of Regents, picked Paul Hawley to be Director of the American College of Surgeons to which he was appointed on 1 March 1950. The administration of the College had become comparable to that of a large industrial organization and needed a Director who would both manage that side of the College activities, and also keep the Board of Regents fully informed of College affairs, and recommend lines of future development.

Hawley was at once implicated in problems concerning hospital standards and the requirements of specialist surgical training, and soon overcame the prejudices of some of the older Fellows who were critical of the appointment of a military director. Almost immediately he was called upon to act as the Executive Officer of the College in controversies over the International College of Surgeons, and also about certain practices deemed by the Regents to be unethical. In April 1956 he was one of the four representatives of the American College to come over to confer with the Council of the Royal College of Surgeons about the foundation of the International Federation of Surgical Colleges.

Paul Hawley was awarded many well deserved honours, including the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, and the Bronze Star Medal for Military Service; honorary degrees from several universities; the honorary Fellowships of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and Edinburgh, and of the Royal College of Physicians of London; as well as the honorary membership of several medical and surgical societies. He retired from the Directorship of the American College of Surgeons in January 1961, and with his wife Lydia went to live at Shady Side, Maryland, where he was ideally happy on the shore of Chesapeake Bay with his boat moored close by. Unfortunately his happiness was cut short by malignant disease, and he died in Walter Reed General Hospital on 24 November 1965, and was buried with full military honours at Arlington Cemetery, Washington DC.

Sources used to compile this entry: [J Amer Med Ass 1966, 195, 39; Bull Amer Coll Phys 1966, 7, 117; Bull Amer Coll Surg 1966, 51, 146; Ann Roy Coll Surg Engl 1966, 38, 64].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England