About Elmer DeGowin

Elmer L. DeGowin, MD (1901-1980)

Elmer L. DeGowin, portrait

Following medical school graduation in 1928 from the University of Michigan, DeGowin's meteoric rise in American medicine was the consequence of his pioneering work in the banking, storage and transportation of blood.

In 1938, a group of investigators under his leadership established the blood transfusion service at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. Their blood bank was the first established west of the Mississippi River. Under his direction a series of studies proved conclusively the beneficial role of glucose in extending the useful life span of blood and the safety of blood stored in the cold for prolonged periods. Anticipating needs that were soon to be acute in the armed forces, DeGowin's group demonstrated in the autumn of 1940 the viability of several dozen samples of blood after airplane voyages half way across the continent in ice-packed containers. His contributions to blood transfusion and banking culminated in his service for five years as Secretary on the Subcommittee of Blood of the National Research Council.

In addition to his pioneering work in the expanding field of blood transfusion, he was a tireless student and scholar of internal medicine. He was among the first physicians to use sulfonamides and penicillin at the UI Hospitals & Clinics and was instrumental in designing the hospital's charting system. From his many years as a teacher, he compiled a medical student's pocket companion for guidance on the ward and in the clinic. His Bedside Diagnostic Examination was used frequently by American medical students and their European counterparts.

Elmer DeGowin served two terms as Iowa's leader for the American College of Physicians from 1965-71 and in 1974 was designated a Master of that organization.

His contributions to American medicine survive in the competence of his students, the relevance of his writings, the accomplishments of his son Richard DeGowin, MD, and the excellence of the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. In recognition of his efforts, the Elmer L. DeGowin Memorial Blood Center was dedicated in December of 1981.