Michael Marks Davis


Michael Marks Davis was born on August 19, 1879 in New York, New York. During his life span, Dr. Davis became a pioneer investigator in medical care in the United States. He studied Sociology and Economics at Columbia University and received his PhD in 1906. He was largely involved with various efforts aiming to aid social problems and their impact on the health of immigrants and people living in poverty.

Dr. Davis was an active member of a number of unions and organizations such as The People’s Institute (1905-1910) and the Boston Dispensary (1910-1920). His work at the Boston Dispensary influenced the idea of a pay clinic, which allowed low-income patients to pay a small fee for medical services. During his time at the Dispensary he began investigating the structural function of health services and the most efficient way to manage a team of physicians, nurses, administrators and social workers. His advocacy for new methods of delivering medical care made him a pioneer in hospital administration.

In 1920, he was recruited by the Rockefeller Foundation to research alternative forms of ambulatory care to hospitals and dispensaries. He conducted this project for seven years and then transitioned into the Director of Medical Services role at the Julius Rosenwald Fund. His department at the Rosenwald Fund helped establish the Blue Cross system, which is still used today for repayment of hospital costs.

Dr. Davis founded The Graduate Program in Health Administration and Policy (GPHAP) in 1935 through the support of the Deans of the Graduate School of Business, the medical school, the School of Social Service Administration and from faculty at the Department of Sociology. The structure of the program influenced a number of other universities and graduate programs to adopt similar practices.

In 1945, Dr. Davis supported President Harry S. Truman’s efforts to create a national health insurance program through his role as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Committee for the Nation’s Health. The Truman Presidential Library and Museum continue to recognize Dr. Davis’ involvement with the campaign.

Dr. Davis published a number of books with his first two being, Dispensaries: Their Management and Development (1918) and Immigrant Health and the Community (1921). A few years later he published Public Medical Services (1937) and America Organizes Medicine (1941). He was also the editor for Medical Care, the first periodical in the United States that was solely for economic and social aspects of health services and continues to publish today.

Dr. Davis’ many contributions to health legislation are continuously honored.  His legacy is especially notable at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and the Center for Health Administration Studies (CHAS).