Dr. John M. Sheldon was Director of the Department of Postgraduate Medicine and Chief of the Allergy Division at the University of Michigan Medical Center. At the time of his death in 1967, he was one of only three physicians in the hospital’s 100-year history to rise from intern to a member of the governing Board of Directors.
Born November 2, 1905 in Percival, Iowa, Dr. Sheldon earned his Bachelor’s degree and his Doctor of Medicine degree at the University of Nebraska. He joined the University of Michigan as an intern in 1932 and remained at Michigan for his residency. He then rose through the academic ranks to become a full Professor of Internal Medicine in 1950.
During World War II, Dr. Sheldon joined the U-M’s 298th General Hospital Unit as Chief of the Medical Service. He received three battle stars for action in Europe. In July 1945, he was promoted to Colonel and made commanding officer of the unit, serving until its deactivation in October 1945.
As Director of the Department of Postgraduate Medicine, Dr. Sheldon was in contact with more than 2,000 Michigan physicians each year. He was also recognized as one of America’s prominent allergists, having specialized in the field since 1932.
As part of his close involvement with professional affairs, he served as President of the American Academy of Allergy in 1954, President of the Michigan Allergy Society, and Chairman of the Postgraduate Medical Education Committee of the Michigan State Medical Society.
He was a member of the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the Central Society for Clinical Research, the American Foundation for Allergic Diseases, and other organizations. He was also national vice president of Phi Rho Sigma.
In 1954, Dr. Sheldon, along with his colleagues, wrote “A Manual of Clinical Allergy”. A second edition was published in late 1967.
The Michigan State Medical Society awarded Dr. Sheldon its Certificate of Commendation in 1963 in recognition of his work in medical education and allergy and, according to the citation, “as an illustrious leader in the important work of professional medicine.”
On January 19, 1967 Dr. Sheldon was named to the Michigan Health Council’s “Health Hall of Fame” in recognition of his professional contributions.
Despite a long illness, Dr. Sheldon remained active in a wide variety of professional affairs. At the time of his death was on the Hospital Board, a member of the House of Delegates of the American Medical Association (representing the American Academy of Allergy), Director of UM’s Montgomery Allergy Research Laboratory, a governor of the Michigan Medical Center Alumni Society, and immediate past president of the Washtenaw Country Medical Society.
Former U-M President Harlan Hatcher said: “The people of Michigan owe much to Dr. Sheldon and his dedication to the idea that 'the best physician is the one who keeps on learning all his life'. His monuments will be the University’s highly regarded Department of Postgraduate Medicine and more importantly, the hundreds of doctors who learned their art from him.”
Dr. William N. Hubbard Jr., Dean of the Medical School (at the time of Dr. Sheldon’s death) said: “The distinguished career of John M. Sheldon was a day-by-day testimonial to students and colleagues alike of the highest ideals of the medical profession. In this day when one hears much about the narrowness of specialists and the movement of the patient away from the center of the physicians’ interest, Dr. Sheldon represented the great traditions of medicine. His solicitude for his patients, his dedication to scholarly work, the enthusiasm with which he taught, and the generosity with which he gave his good judgment and leadership to the profession of medicine, altogether will be long remembered by his students and colleagues. Through the inspiration of this memory Dr. Sheldon’s influence will survive him.”
In honor of his significant contributions to the medical field and the field of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the John M. Sheldon Allergy Society was formed in 1966 by 75 doctors, most of whom received their specialty training from him. The Society membership has grown to over 150 members worldwide.