Watson Smith Rankin was one of the first three honorary inductees into the Delta Omega Public Health Honorary Society in 1924. His contribution to the health of North Carolinians merited honoring his career in public health.
Rankin received his medical degree from University of Maryland (he also studied medicine at North Carolina Medical College at Davidson College). He completed post-graduate work at Johns Hopkins Medical Institute, a 6-month residency at the University of Maryland, and a 13-month residency in pathology at the University Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Having completed his training in Maryland, Rankin returned to North Carolina to a position as Professor of Pathology at Wake Forest College. A few short years later he was named Dean of the School of Medicine at Wake Forest. One of his claims to fame was being appointed the first full-time health officer position in North Carolina as the Executive Secretary of the North Carolina State Board of Health.
In 1925 he became the Trustee for the Duke Endowment and Director of the Duke Hospital. Throughout his life, Watson was very active in the field of public health. He died September 8, 1970 and he is buried in Lincolnton, NC.