John William Keefe

Biography of John William Keefe, M. D.

State and national eminence in the medical profession has come to Dr. John W. Keefe of Providence, Rhode Island, through his special skill as a surgeon and his many notable and humane achievements in a career in which his service in his chosen profession has been distinguished for nearly half a century.

John William Keefe was born of Irish parentage in Worcester, Massachusetts, April 25, 1863, son of Denis and Alice (McGrath) Keefe. He attended the public schools, and at the age of nineteen, enrolled as a student in the Department of Medicine and Surgery at the University of Michigan, 1882-83, which had at that time many eminent men as members of its faculty, with the beloved Dr. Angell as president. Among these were: Dr. Donald McLean, surgeon; Dr. Corydon L. Ford, anatomist; Dr. Dunster, gynecologist; and Dr. Victor C. Vaughan, chemist. Among the students were Dr. William Mayo and Dr. Hubert Work. These valued associations and the spirit of the West were an inspiration to him in his later career and were a stimulus to professional work of such a character as to place Dr. Keefe among the leading surgeons of the country.

Dr. Keefe obtained his degree of Doctor of Medicine at the University Medical College, New York University, in 1884; and in 1909, Manhattan College conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws in recognition of his contributions to medical literature. After graduation Dr. Keefe served as an intern at Bellevue Hospital, New York, on the surgical service, an experience which largely determined his after career. He worked there under such masters of surgery as: Dr. Lewis A. Stimson, father of the Secretary of State; Dr. Stephen Smith; Dr. Charles McBurney; and Dr. William S. Halstead, who was later at Johns Hopkins.

Dr. Keefe’s remarkable skill as a surgeon won him recognition by his professional associates and reputation among his fellow-citizens in Rhode Island almost as soon as he had begun active practice. Within a few years his name was familiar throughout the State of Rhode Island as a successful surgeon, and his services were sought constantly in difficult and unusually delicate operations, many of which were almost desperate final efforts to save life.

Dr. Keefe was very active in the foundation of St. Joseph’s Hospital at Providence, which he has since served most faithfully, and for some thirty-five years he has worked earnestly for the Rhode Island Hospital. Dr. Keefe is consulting surgeon at the following hospitals: Rhode Island, St. Joseph’s, Providence Lying-In, Providence City, at Providence; Westerly; Woonsocket; South County at Wakefield; Memorial at Pawtucket; and he is surgeon-in-chief to The John W. Keefe Surgery Inc., a hospital founded by Dr. Keefe for the sole treatment of surgical cases.

Dr. Keefe is a retired major in the Medical Reserve Corps, to which he was appointed by the late President Taft, and served during the Great War as a major in the Medical Department of the United States Army. He was president 1913-1914, of the Rhode Island Medical Society; president 1916-17, of the American Association of Obstetricians, Gynecologists and Abdominal Surgeons; president, 1924-25, of the New England Surgical Society. He was the first president of the Catholic Club of Providence which he assisted to found. He is a Knight of Columbus, fourth degree. For several years he was a member of the Public Welfare Commission and Commission of State Charities and Correction. He is a director of the Union Trust of Providence.

His interest in surgical matters has made him a constant contributor to various journals and societies. He is a member of the following societies and clubs; American Medical Association; Fellow and one of the founders of both the American College of Surgeons and the New England Surgical Society; Fellow of the American Association of Obstetricians, Gynecologists and Abdominal Surgeons; Rhode Island Medical Society; Providence Medical Association; Bellevue Hospital Alumni Association; Friday Night Medical Club; American Legion; Hope Club; Catholic Club; and Rhode Island Country Club.

On April 24, 1895, John William Keefe married Statia Sherman Maher, daughter of Thomas Sherman and Ellen Frances Maher, of Brookline, Massachusetts. They are the parents of Alice Sherman, Helen Constance, Gertrude Sherman, and Mary Ruth Keefe.

Dr. Keefe has always stood for that which is highest and best in his profession and has striven unceasingly to achieve this perfection. He has worked generously and well and he will not be forgotten by the poor whom he has so faithfully served.

Source: Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 3 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.

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