Dr. John William Keefe (1863-1935) was a surgeon of great skill and compassion who founded the John W. Keefe Surgery at 262 Blackstone Boulevard in Providence. Although a successful physician in both private practice and as a consulting surgeon at several hospitals, it was his dream to build and operate a small institution where the faults and inefficiencies of general hospitals with their many wards, doctors and nurses would be replaced by a professional efficiency combined with a personal touch. Dr. Keefe founded that hospital in 1913 and staffed it with carefully selected personnel directly under his supervision. It was his feeling that the mortality rate in a small hospital was much less than in a larger one and the comfort and well being of the patients had a lot to do with it.
John William Keefe was born in Worcester, Massachusetts on April 25, 1863 the son of Dennis and Alice (McGrath Keefe). Following his education in local schools he attended the University of Michigan and New York University from which he received his medical degree in 1884. After an internship at Bellevue Hospital he moved to Providence in 1886. Nine years after his arrival Dr. Keefe married Statia Sherman. The couple had four daughters.
During his long career he was consulting surgeon at Rhode Island, St. Joseph, Woonsocket, Pawtucket Memorial, South County, Westerly, and Lying In Hospitals until founding his John W. Keefe Surgery institution. The hospital bearing his name had an operating room considered one of the finest in the country with equipment and arrangement. Problems that could not be solved in the larger hospitals were skillfully handed and scientific surgery saved many patients.
Dr. Keefe was a member of the Medical Reserve Corps of the United States Army, retiring with the rank of major. During World War I, he served as chairman of the medical section of the Council of National Defense for Rhode Island and wrote for medical journals where his work was considered scholarly and the authority on whatever he wrote.
Attesting to his leadership in the medical profession is the following sample of his honors and leadership roles: a founder of St. Joseph’s Hospital, president of the Rhode Island Medical Society (1913-14), president of the American Association of Obstetricians, Gynecologists, and Abdominal Surgeons (1916-17), president of the New England Medical Society (1924-25), fellow and co-founder of both the American College of Surgeons and the New England Surgical Society, and recipient of an honorary Doctor of Laws from Manhattan College (1909) in recognition to his contributions to medical literature.
When Dr. Keefe died in 1935 at the age of 72, he had long been a leader in the medical profession in Rhode Island and had a national reputation in the field of surgical literature.