May Owen, MD (1946)

Dr. May Owen, known by many as Dr. May, was born on May 3, 1896 on a farm in Falls County, Texas to Jack Owen and Lili Falkenhagen. She completed high school in Fort Worth in 1913 and with the help of her brother, went to Texas Christian University. She graduated with a BA in 1917.
Dr. Owen died on April 12, 1988 at the age of ninety-six.

Medical Education & Practice

Dr. Owen received her MD degree from the Louisville Medical School in Kentucky in 1921. She then went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota to continue her studies, serving as an assistant pathologist. She also spent some time in the Department of Legal Medicine and Toxicology at Bellevue Hospital in New York City until she returned to Fort Worth to become chief pathologist for Terrell Laboratories, where she worked for the remainder of her career.

In the 1936, Dr. Owen was awarded an honorary graduate degree from Texas Christian University for discovering that talc, which was used in surgical gloves, is not absorbed by the human body and could cause inflammation and the formation of scar tissue. As a result of her research, pharmaceutical companies changed the formulation of the powder used in surgical gloves.

By 1947, Dr. Owen was becoming widely regarded for her abilities as a pathologist as well as her work in the medical community. That year she was elected the first woman president of the Tarrant County Medical Society. In 1952, she was awarded the Gold Headed Cane award by her fellow physicians, and in 1955, the men’s medical fraternity, Alpha Kappa Kappa, gave her an honorary pin for financially assisting so many young medical students and physicians. She would eventually help more than four hundred students complete their medical education through the May Owen Irrevocable Trust Loan Fund.

In 1960, Dr. Owen was the first woman elected president of the Texas Medical Association. As TMA president, she used her travel allowance to establish a fund to assist physicians and their families in times of financial crisis. She also chaired the TMA Council on Scientific Affairs for the maximum tenure of nine years. In 1969 the TMA acknowledged her many contributions with their highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award. In 1987, she was the first person to receive the Award for Outstanding Service to the TMA Medical Student Section.

In 1965, the Hall of Health Sciences in the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History was named in her honor for the many ways that she had helped the Tarrant County community. Among the many distinctions that she received for local work, she was recognized by the Women’s Club of Fort Worth in 1958, the Women’s Auxiliary to the Tarrant County Medical Society in 1959, the Women’s Civic Council in 1976, and the Sertoma Club in 1971.
Dr. Owen also served the West Texas area both as a pathologist and in its academic community. When Texas Tech University in Lubbock opened its School of Medicine in 1972, Dr. Owen endowed the first chair at the school, which is now the May Owen Chair in Pathology.

In 1986, Dr. Owen was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame.

Texas Society of Pathologists

Dr. Owen played an instrumental role in the formation of the TSP and was one of the members in attendance at the meeting at Terrell Laboratories in which Dr. Andujar sought to re-establish the TSP as a separate organization from State Medical Association of Texas.

She served on committees for the formation of a tumor registry and for making a library collection of slides for general practitioners interested in basic pathology and for those studying for specialty board exams.
Dr. Owen became the first female president of the TSP in 1945, and was the recipient of the George T. Caldwell, MD Award in 1958.

Notable Publication(s)

Baker, L. H., Reid, J. J., & Owen, M. (1931). Diabetic coma of feed-lot sheep. J Am Vet Med Assoc, 79, 97-99.
Owen, M (1936). Peritoneal Response to Glove Powder. Texas State J. Med, 32: 482-485.
You can find more about her and her contributions in the Texas Medical Association Portal!