The “Big Four”

The founding faculty of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine comprised some of the most respected medical men of their era. All were innovators with rigorous standards of practice, research and training.

They set the bar high for other medical schools, and many of their graduates went on to establish or transform other programs around the country.

The Big FourWilliam Welch, who helped the university's president, Daniel Coit Gilman, assemble the team, was a pathologist;  William Osler, the internist who oversaw the department of medicine, was a Canadian considered the finest doctor practicing in the United States; William Stewart Halsted headed up surgery; and Howard Kelly, gynecology and obstetrics.

The original "Big Four" are depicted here in John Singer Sargent's "The Four Doctors," which hangs in the medical library on the Johns Hopkins campus.

At a time when individual doctors could be institutions unto themselves, Osler introduced the concept of the medical residency, and Welch a training program in advanced techniques for full-fledged doctors that resembled a modern post-doctoral course. Welch also founded the country's first school of public health. Kelly established his own cancer clinic.

Halsted taught his students to operate at a new level of skill and care, and was responsible for introducing the use of surgical gloves, which in beginning were meant merely to protect doctors' and nurses' hands.