Thomas Parran, Jr. was Surgeon General of the United States from 1936-1948. His work on syphilis control and administrative reform both contributed to Parran being inducted as an honorary member of Delta Omega in 1938.
Parran began his life in rural Maryland on his father's tobacco farm. He won a scholarship to study at St. John's College in Annapolis. His medical education was received at Georgetown University. His initial assignment with the Public Health Service's Hygienic Laboratory was conducting research in the rural south on sanitation conditions and building privies. In 1917, Parran became an Assistant Surgeon and continued his work in rural health and santiation. In 1924, he received the equivalent of a master's degree in public health. Parran drew the attention of Franklin D. Roosevelt, then governor of New York, and was assigned to New York State as a health commissioner. In this capacity, he was to develop a new framework for the delivery of health care in New York. Unfortunately, few of the recommendations in the framework were actually carried out. But, due to the resulting media attention after Parran's radio talk on syphilis control was censored for language, Parran and his syphilis control program received national media coverage. This coverage was important in disseminating information about syphilis and modern forms of control of the disease.
Roosevelt, now President of the United States, appointed Parran to the committee, which "drafted the Social Security Act of 1935." In 1936, Roosevelt again nominated Parran for an appointed position within the government; this time as Surgeon General. Syphilis control became the first major public health issue addressed by Surgeon General Parran. Funds were made available from the government to develop 'rapid treatment centers."
Both domestically and internationally, Parran thrived as Surgeon General. In 1943 and 1944, Parran restructured the Public Health Service into a 4-bureau structure. This restructuring, which remained in place until 1967, opened a new realm for the National Institute of Health, that of extramural funding. Parran worked in international health by serving with the Rockefeller Foundation, the Pan American Health Organization, and chairing an international health conference.
Upon his retirement from the Public Health Service in 1948, Parran continued in the role of public health administrator by becoming the first dean of the newly formed School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh. He was key in structuring the school and bringing the core of the researchers for the continuation of the school.
Upon his second retirement in 1958, Parran continued to work in public health. He was president of the Avalon Foundation and a trustee in the A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust. Parran died in 1968 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.