John P. McGovern medical medallions collection

Photographs of Medals in Trays

Identity elements

Reference code

MS 200

Level of description



John P. McGovern medical medallions collection


  • 1969-1974 (Creation)
  • 1773-1971 (Creation)


6.0 cubic feet (6 boxes)

Name of creator

(1921 - 2007)

Biographical history

The John P. McGovern Historical Collections and Research Center is named after a great patron of medicine and the humanities. John P. McGovern, MD (1921-2007) was recognized internationally as an American physician, researcher, historian, author, philosopher, humanitarian and philanthropist. He was the author or coauthor of twenty-two books and 247 publications, and served as the editor or member of editorial boards of more than twenty scientific journals.

Dr. McGovern was the recipient of numerous awards and the holder of seventeen professorships. The American Medical Association presented him with the Special Award for Meritorious Service and said he was truly a giant in American Medicine.

Dr. McGovern’s long-standing commitment to education, in the form of teaching, research and scholarship, led to his appointment to seventeen professorships at fifteen universities. In 1976, he was awarded the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Duke University where he received both his Bachelor of Science and medical degrees. The American School Health Association awarded him the Distinguished Alumnus Award, as well as their highest honor, the William A. Howe Award. He was a Presidential appointee to the Board of Regents of the National Library of Medicine, which he chaired in 1973-74. In 1990, the American Association of Colleges of Nurses awarded him the annual Outstanding Scholarship in Health Care Award and in 1991, he received the Outstanding Alumnus Award from the Phi Beta Kappa Alumni of Greater Houston. In all, he was awarded honorary degrees from twenty-eight major colleges and universities. In addition, Dr. McGovern was the author or co-author of over 240 publications, including twenty-one books and served as editor, associate editor, or member of the editorial board of more than twenty scientific journals. His leadership was exemplified as chief elected officer or president of at least fifteen prominent societies in the humanities, health education science and medicine.

Service was always important to Dr. McGovern. In 1985, he received the Private Sector Initiative Commendation from U.S. President Ronald Reagan for his lifetime of meritorious service in medicine and generous contributions to his community. He was appointed to a four-year term in 1987 on the National Advisory Council of the Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institute of Health. The following year brought the American Medical Writer’s Association’s highest honor, the Harold Swanberg Distinguished Service Award and the American Medical Association’s Board of Directors’ Special Award for Meritorious Service, the latter calling Dr. McGovern truly one of the giants in American Medicine. In 1989, then-Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop awarded him the Surgeon General’s Medal for his lifetime of meritorious and multi-faceted contributions to the broad field of health promotion and disease prevention and specifically, more recently for his seminal work on our Drunk Driving Initiative.

For over twenty years, Dr. McGovern served as the honorary curator of rare books for The Texas Medical Center Library. He donated his extensive rare book collection to the Library’s History of Medicine Section of Special Collections in 1982. In 1996, the Library’s Special Collection was renamed in his honor, The John P. McGovern Historical Collections & Research Center.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

This is personal collection of medical medallions acquired by John P. McGovern, MD. There are 188 medals, three of which are numbered and stored as pairs.

The collection consists of 6 large boxes, totaling 6.0 cubic feet, of medical medallions dating from the late 1700s to the 20th century. Many of the medals were produced as commemorative items in the 1960s and 1970s. The bulk of the medals come from the Great Men of Medicine Art Medals series. The collection contains two complete sets of the 50 medals, in both the silver and bronze versions. These were sculpted by Abram Belskie and distributed by Presidential Art Medals, Inc. of Vandalia, Ohio, from 1969 to 1974. In addition to the medals themselves, these commemorative series also include pamphlets describing the medals and the accomplishments of the figures portrayed.

A second group of modern medals includes examples from the Hall of Fame for Great Americans at New York University, presented by the Medallic Art Company and also sculpted by Belskie. In addition, there are several examples of the medals issued for the Medical Library Association's Seventy-fifth Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota in June of 1976.

The remaining 70 or so items are historical medallions ranging in dates from at least 1773 to 1971, though many of them are undated. Many of them recognize physicians, hospitals, organizations, events, or developments in medicine. Many are in English, while others appear to be in Latin, French, or other languages. Many of these arrived in the archives in envelopes with accompanying notes with information such as their size, composition, and sculptor. These notes have been added to the descriptions of individual medallions when available.

Many of the medals--particularly modern ones--arrived at the archives in their original boxes. These have been retained and are stored along with the medals, separated by tissue paper for preservation reasons.

System of arrangement

The medals arrived in the archives with minimal arrangement. The groupings of modern commemorative medal series and historical medallions was partially apparent and has been used in arranging the collection. The archives have assigned sequential numbers to all of the medals.

The medals have been housed in archival trays, which are stacked and stored in archival boxes. Each medal is supported with tissue paper within an individual tray compartment, to facilitate preservation as well as easy display. In many cases, original boxes have been placed underneath the tissue paper.

Series I: Medallic Art Company's 50 Men of Medicine series, bronze, A-Z
Series II: Medallic Art Company's 50 Men of Medicine series, silver, A-Z
Series III: Medical Library Association Seventy-fifth Annual Meeting Medals
Series IV: Historical Medical Medals

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

Open for research.

Physical access

Materials are in good condition.

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

Copyright restrictions may apply. Permission to publish from this material must be facilitated through the repository, McGovern Historical Center.

Languages of the material

  • English
  • French
  • Latin

Scripts of the material

  • Latin

Language and script notes

Finding aids


Generated finding aid

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history


Immediate source of acquisition

Donated by The McGovern Foundation in July 2016.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information

The collection contained a large number of medals commemorating the 75th anniversary meeting of the Medical Library Association (MLA) as well as the 25th anniversary of another group (related to Allergy, possibly the American Academy of Allergy). Two to three copies of the MLA medals in various forms--silver, bronze, with ribbons, with cases, etc.--have been retained, totaling ten copies of this medallion. As there was no such variation in the Allergy medals, extra copies have been removed from the collection.


No accruals are expected for this collection.

Related materials elements

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related archival materials

Similar collections of medical medallions include:

Medical Commemorative Medals at Yale's Harvey Cushing/ John Hay Whitney Medical Library, Medical Historical Library .

B. Bernard Weinstein Medal Collection at Tulane's Howard-Tilton Memorial Library .

Notes element

Specialized notes

  • Citation: John P. McGovern medical medallions collection; MS 200; McGovern Historical Center, Texas Medical Center Library. Please cite the box and folder numbers where appropriate.

Alternative identifier(s)



Description control element

Rules or conventions

Sources used

Archivist's note

Initial assessment by Philip Montgomery, 2016. Rehousing and inventory by Matt Richardson, 2022.

Access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Accession area