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Jack Westley Cole, MD

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When Dr. Jack Cole (1920-2002) came to Yale Medical School in 1966 to become Ensign Professor of Surgery and Chairman of the Department of Surgery, one of his chief objectives was to address the woeful state of Emergency Medical Care in the United States — particularly the out of hospital response to trauma and other emergencies. In 1969, he received a $2 million grant from the Commonwealth Fund of New York to develop the Yale Trauma Program to address these problems and develop solutions. He recruited Alfred M. Sadler, Jr., MD and Blair L. Sadler, JD, from the National Institutes of Health, to co-direct the Program in 1970. Their collective efforts led to a complete revamping of Connecticut’s Emergency Medical Services system in the mid 1970’s and served as a model for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s first national program, to develop regional EMS systems in the 1970’s.

After discussions with the Sadlers in 1969, Dr. Cole was convinced to start a Program to train Physician Assistants (Associates) and Dr. Sadler became the Founding Director of the new Program. One of the first PA Programs in the country, it was the first to include an emphasis on acute and emergency care while maintaining a generalist focus. Paul Moson, PA, and early Duke PA graduate, was recruited to provide able assistance in curriculum development and program leadership.

Dr. Cole was instrumental in arranging for five New York Foundations to encourage the writing of a “White Paper of the Physician Assistant” and in turn underwrite the first book on Physician Assistants — “The Physician’s Assistant: Today and Tomorrow” by Sadler, Sadler and Ann Bliss in 1972.

The Jack W. Cole Society is the student society of the American Academy of Physician Assistants and is named in his honor. Initially a certificate-granting program, the Yale Medical School began awarding the Masters Degree to its PA Program graduates in 1999.

Dr. Cole was born in Portland, OR, and raised in Eugene. He earned his BS degree from the University of Oregon in 1939 and received his MD in 1944 from Washington University in St. Louis, MO. After completing his surgical residency at the University Hospital of Cleveland, OH, he taught at the Case-Western Reserve University where he became faculty professor. He served as Captain in the Medical Corps and Chief of Surgery of the 120th Station in Bayreuth, Germany.

Upon fulfilling his military duties, he accepted the position of Chairman of the Department of Surgery at Hahnemann University, Philadelphia, PA in 1963. Dr. Cole came to Yale three years later and served as the Chairman of the Department of Surgery from 1966 through 1986. He also directed the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Yale from 1978-1986 before retiring in 1986.

Dr. Cole traveled the country and the world as a visiting professor including positions in London, Saigon and Taiwan, and was twice a Woodrow Wilson National Foundation Visiting Fellow. He was a founding member of the American Trauma Society, and he was president of the New England Cancer Society and member of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Institutional Research Grants of the American Cancer Society. He served as a member of the Advisory Committee on Graduate Education of the American Medical Association, and was on the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Cancer Research Institute at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

He spent his retirement years in Camden, ME, where he died in 2002 after 59 years of marriage to his wife Ruth. They have four children and 4 grandchildren. He is remembered for his intelligence, imagination and generosity of spirit

Acknowledgments: This biography was prepared by Alfred M. Sadler, Jr., MD with the assistance of Ruth Cole, Dr. Cole’s widow. The photo and some biographical material was obtained with appreciation from the website of the Yale University PA Program. This biography was submitted to the PA History Society in July 2016.

When using information from this biography, please provide the proper citation as described within the PA History Society Terms of Use.