Robert S. Jason Biography (1901-1984)

African American
physician, pathologist

Robert S. Jason was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in pathology.Jason had a medical degree as well and served as head of the department of pathology at Howard University and later as dean of its college of medicine. During his last years at Howard, he was coordinator for design and planning of its new University Hospital. In recognition of his many contributionsto the university, the department of pathology at Howard's College of Medicine established in 1967 the Robert S. Jason Award in Pathology.

Robert Stewart Jason was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico on November 29, 1901.He was the son of Reverend Howard Talbot Jason, a Presbyterian missionary whowas originally from Maryland, and his missionary wife, Lena B. (Wright) Jason. After attending local schools in Corozal, Puerto Rico and graduating fromthe Polytechnic Institute of San German, Puerto Rico, Jason entered Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and received his B.A. degree in 1924. He then attended the Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C., and was awarded his M.D. degree in 1928. From the local schools of Puerto Rico throughcollege and medical school, Jason was regularly ranked first in his class. In1929 he completed his internship at Freedman's Hospital in Washington, D.C.,and chose to continue his studies at the University of Chicago, where he wasawarded his Ph.D. in pathology in 1932.

During that time, Jason joined the medical faculty at Howard's College of Medicine as an assistant professor of pathology. In 1934 he became associate professor and acting head of the department of pathology, and, by 1937, he was the department head and a full professor as well. He then served as vice deanof the college of medicine from 1946 to 1953, and as dean from 1955 to 1965.In that year he took on a new position as coordinator for the design and planning stages of a new facility to replace Howard's old Freedman's Hospital. Heretired as professor emeritus in 1970 and lived in San Diego, California, before moving to New York City in 1979. As a pathologist, he was concerned withthe structural and functional changes in cells, tissues, and organs caused by disease, and he focused specifically during his research career on the pathology of syphilis and tuberculosis. As department head and dean, he ran an extremely efficient operation, and these same skills were used toplan and organize Howard's new hospital.

Besides research, teaching, and administration, Jason held many professionalappointments. He was a consultant in pathology to the National Institutes ofHealth from 1955 to 1970, consultant to the Veterans Administration Hospitalfrom 1960 to 1970, member of the International Committee on Health of the Agency for International Development, and member of the National Advisory Council on Education for the Health Professions from 1964 to 1968. Jason also received several honors and awards during his long career. Besides two honorary doctorates and several awards from Howard University, he received the Professional Achievement Award given by the University of Chicago Alumni Association in 1970 and the Distinguished Service Award of the National Medical Association in 1969. Jason considered the most significant honor he received to be Howard University's College of Medicine naming an award after him in 1967. According to the Journal of the National Medical Association, "it is presented to a graduating student chosen on the basis of distinguished scholasticachievements, demonstrated interest in fundamental aspects of disease, integrity, self-discipline, and compassion, attributes common to the recipient andDr. Robert S. Jason."

Jason was a volunteer with the American Cancer Society as well as a member ofthe American Medical Association, the American Association of Pathologists and Bacteriologists, and the International Academy of Pathologists. He was also a fellow of the College of American Pathologists and belonged to Alpha Omega Alpha (a national medical honor society), Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and the Alpha Pi Boule of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity.

Jason died of Alzheimer's disease at his home in New York City on April 6, 1984. He was survived by his wife, the former Elizabeth Gaddis, a daughter, Mrs. Jean Elizabeth Wright, a son, Robert S. Jason, Jr. M.D., and one brother and four sisters.

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