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Medical History Society of New Jersey



October 4, 1913 - June 20, 2009)

Physician ∞ Teacher ∞ Mentor

Dr. Donald Kent was born Oct. 4, 1913, in Newark, NJ and grew up in East Orange, NJ. He received his B.A. and M.D. degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. He was married to his high school sweetheart, Virginia Golden, until her death in 2005.

In 1945, he returned from service an Army physician in England and established a private practice in Chatham, NJ. As a General Practitioner, he attended to all the town's medical needs, making house calls and serving as the high school physician.

He was also active in the community as a member of the Medical History Society of New Jersey, Wheelmen's Society, and the Chatham Community Players, where he performed in many plays. 

In 1973 at the age of 60, while continuing to care for his long-time patients, he took on a new career as founder and director of Overlook Hospital Family Practice Residency program. There he taught and mentored new doctors until his retirement in 1988. At the age of 82, he was the oldest person to receive a doctorate from Drew University, in Madison, NJ. He then became a founding faculty member of a new doctoral program in medical humanities at Drew.

At the age of 95, he was still teaching a course in the history of medicine (which he alternated with one on the history of plagues) in the fall semester 2008.

He also wrote a biography of Peter Roget for the fifth edition of the famous Thesaurus.

Dr. Donald Kent was a longtime regular attendee of MHSNJ meetings, and presented papers at several meetings, including presentations on the history of anesthesia in 1982 and 1995. 

Richard A. Marfuggi, M.D., FACS, D.M.H, MHSNJ member, remembers him fondly as a founding faculty member of the medical humanities program at Drew University.  “Our association, which began in his amazing seminars on the history of medicine and the history of plagues, grew into a most valued friendship.  He introduced all his students to the Medical History Society of New Jersey and encouraged us to become members.”

2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine Winner and MHSNJ Past-president William C. Campbell’s tribute to Dr. Kent: 

    “Had the term medical humanities not existed, it might well have been coined to accommodate     the interests and activities of Donald F. Kent.  A physician and pioneer in the practice of family     medicine, he was first and foremost a man who cared.  He cared for the sick and devoted his life     to making them well.  Indeed, he cared for people of every description.  He cared for fairness     and humility in the practice of medicine.  He cared for science, history, and language and, as     realist and humanist, he cared about the socio-political issues that swirled around him.”

According to Dr. Marfuggi, “As history recounts the narrative of lives well lived, we can take pride in knowing that one of our own has set an example well worth remembering.”

THE DONALD F. KENT MEMORIAL LECTURE was launched in 2013 to honor the memory of Dr. Kent. These lectures are presented every year in the fall.  

Source: Obituary Bradley Funeral Homes; Medical History Society Newsletter, October 2009, Volume 29 Number 2; Announcing the Donald F. Kent Memorial Lectures, by Richard A. Marfuggi, M.D., FACS, D.M.H

The Donald F. Kent Lecture Series has been active in different iterations since 1993.

  • Corporate (1993 - 1999)
  • Society (2000 - 2001)
  • Foundation (2002 - 2010) 
  • Friends of the Society (2011 - 2012)
  • Donald F. Kent Lecture Series (2013 - Present)


Morris H. Saffron, MD, PhD

Morris H. Saffron, MD, PhD (1905-1993) was born in Passaic, NJ. He earned a bachelor's degree in 1925 from Columbia University and his medical degree from the University of Maryland in 1928. Dr. Saffron was an authority on American Colonial medicine, archivist and historian of the New Jersey Medical Society, and a practicing dermatologist in New Jersey and New York. He returned to Columbia in the 1960s to study history and earn a Masters degree and later, a doctorate in the field in 1968. Dr. Saffron authored several books including Samuel Clossy: The Existing Works (1967), Maurus of Salerno (1972), and Surgeon to Washington: Dr. John Cochran, 1730-1807 (1977), as well as many articles on medical history topics.

In 1940, he was called to active service as a flight surgeon, having qualified for the position before the eruption of World War II, and served as chief medical officer of the New York Aviation Cadet Examining Board for two years. He later served as chief of dermatology at several Army hospitals, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1945, when he resumed his medical practice in New Jersey (and later in New York) and active participation in professional associations. He served as president of the New Jersey Dermatological Society, then as president of the Academy of Medicine of New Jersey, and later of the New Jersey Academy of Science. 

In 1958, Dr. Saffron was hired as professor by the new Seton Hall College of Medicine to deliver the first formal series of lectures on medical history offered in the state. He subsequently taught medical history at Kean College (now University), the former Rutgers Medical School (now UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School), and the former New Jersey College of Medicine (now Rutgers New Jersey Medical School). 

Dr. Saffron served as chairman of the Friends of the Columbia Libraries from 1967 to 1972. In 1974, Columbia University awarded him its Presidential Citation for Distinction. He served as a trustee of the New Jersey Historical Society until his death. Dr. Saffron was a fellow of the American Antiquarian Society, the Morgan Library, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Dr. Saffron was one of the founders of the Medical History Society of New Jersey.  His memory is kept alive by an annual lectureship established in his honor in 1979. He served as the chairman of the Library Committee of the Academy of Medicine of New Jersey and was instrumental in influencing the Academy to donate its closing library to the College of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (now UMDNJ), which included rare books -- the basis for the University Libraries' Special Collections. In honor of Dr. Saffron's role in the Academy's donation, the rare book collection was named the Morris H. Saffron Collection of Books on Historical Medicine. Dr. Saffron further supported the University Libraries and the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School by establishing endowments within each unit, the first for the acquisition of rare and antiquarian library materials and the second for the study of the history of medicine by University students. 

Source: https://www.libraries.rutgers.edu/history_of_medicine/manuscripts/saffron

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