Skip Navigation

News

J. Douglas Colman

After receiving a degree in engineering from Cornell University in 1932, J. Douglas Colman launched a career in public service in his native New Jersey. Five years later, he came to Baltimore to participate in a fledgling undertaking—the creation of the city's first nonprofit health service plan, named the Associated Hospital Service of Baltimore.

At the time, the proposal to marry insurance and health care was novel. What must have been even more extraordinary to Mr. Colman's contemporaries—recent veterans of the Depression, which rendered quality and equal health service impossible—was his guarantee for Marylanders who shared in the plan: “Everyone involved stands to gain: the subscribers will get protection and hospital care if they need it; the hospitals will be paid promptly and in full.”

Success proved inevitable. In his first year, Mr. Colman signed on 4,356 individuals at 75 cents a month, and 15 hospitals, including Baltimore's largest, Johns Hopkins. With help from Hopkins in cultivating support, Mr. Colman was able to muster medical and community interest across Maryland. By 1939, his pioneering leadership of the Associated Hospital Service of Baltimore spawned a statewide organization, ultimately renamed Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Maryland.

A decade later, when the ongoing success of Blue Cross/Blue Shield was evident, Mr. Colman made a career shift, becoming the vice president of the Johns Hopkins Hospital under President Russell Nelson. Mr. Colman's talents focused on fundraising during a development boom.

When Mr. Colman eventually returned to Blue Cross/Blue Shield as director of New York operations, he left an indelible impression on the Hopkins community. His legacy will be celebrated for years to come through the J. Douglas Colman Lectureship.

The J. Douglas Colman Lecture at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health honors the advances Mr. Colman marshaled in Maryland's ability to provide its citizens with cost-effective, high-quality care.

The lectureship was established after Mr. Colman's death in 1974 by longtime friend Dr. Russell Nelson, president emeritus of the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Dr. Nelson delivered the first lecture that year. In 1990, the Department of Health Policy and Management agreed that a wider audience, including policymakers, media, educators, students and laymen, could benefit from the Colman lecture.