At the Helm: Portraits of PCOM Presidents | 125 Years
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At the Helm 
Portraits of those who have led PCOM during its nearly 125-year history

August 9, 2023
Portraits of PCOM presidents hanging in brass frames on a wood panel wallBy Jennifer Schaffer Leone

Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine has enjoyed the leadership of eight visionary presidents throughout its nearly 125-year history. Their biographical sketches record their accomplishments, as well as significant aspects of College history during each administration.


President from 1899 to 1904; Trustee

Oscar John Snyder, DOOscar John Snyder, DO, began his early career as a teacher and then in federal government service. He was drawn—later in life—to the study of osteopathic medicine when his sister’s sight was restored after osteopathic manipulative treatment.

Dr. Snyder graduated from the Northern Institute of Osteopathy in 1899, by which time he and fellow teaching-student Reverend Mason Wiley Pressly, DO, had formed plans to establish an osteopathic institution in Philadelphia. They legally incorporated the Philadelphia College and Infirmary of Osteopathy on
January 24, 1899.

Dr. Snyder served as the first president of the College from 1899 to 1904, and as a trustee until his death in 1947. He taught osteopathic symptomotology, therapeutics and jurisprudence. He also established and managed a private medical practice with Dr. Pressly, the two physicians contributing portions of their earnings to the College.

During his tenure as president, Dr. Snyder saw a flourishing of osteopathy in Pennsylvania that triggered a period of growth and expansion at the College: facilities, students, faculty. His fledging College outgrew its first rented space at 21 S. 12th Street and established a first campus at 33rd and Arch Streets. Dr. Snyder awarded the College’s first degrees in 1899 to a transfer student, and to the first class (two students) in 1900.

As the faculty enlarged, disagreements about remuneration ensued. In 1904, faculty wrote an ultimatum in which they threatened to resign unless Drs. Snyder and Pressly stepped down and turned over their stock to the corporation. Both did so, passing leadership of the College into the hands of the board. Yet Dr. Snyder remained close to the leadership of the College throughout his life and continued his passionate campaign for the profession.

In 1905, Dr. Snyder led Pennsylvania’s osteopathic physicians in their bid to the state legislature for a bill to legalize osteopathy in Pennsylvania, an effort that met success in 1909. He founded the Pennsylvania Osteopathic Association and acted as president from 1900 to 1909. He then served as the first chairman of the new Pennsylvania State Board of Osteopathic Examiners from 1909 to 1930. He was president of the Associated Colleges of Osteopathy, president of Osteopathic Clinical Research and president of the American Osteopathic Association.

“Great statesmen have developed in America throughout its short history, yet few will be as vividly remembered as Oscar John Snyder. His dynamic personality, his tenacity and sincerity of purpose, knew no defeat. Many a noted public figure felt the whip of his tongue—he feared no man. To those of us who are left behind, ‘O.J.’ Snyder will be remembered as a figure without comparison. He typified all the properties from which the word virtue was developed. He was in the forefront of battle—his word was his bond—he was courageous but not rash—he was generous but not extravagant. His very carriage and figure marked him as a man carrying the obligations of a great destiny—a leader—a Founder!”

- “A Tribute to the Memory of the Founder”by Otterbein Dressler, DO, dean, Philadelphia College of Osteopathy, July 1947

Acting President, 1952; President from 1953 to 1957

William E. Brandt, DO 1921William E. Brandt, DO 1921, served as the College’s second president following a nearly 50-year period (1904 to 1953) during which the College’s board of chairmen directed the growth of the institution. He was named acting president following the consolidation of the College and hospital into a single corporation, the Philadelphia College of Osteopathy (PCO), in 1952, and fully appointed to the office in 1953.

Dr. Brandt, an alumnus, was a practicing osteopathic physician who turned to sports writing, public relations and broadcasting before culminating his career in higher education. He began his work in journalism with the Philadelphia Record in 1912, and subsequently worked on the staffs of the Bulletin, Evening Ledger and New York Times. In 1934, he succeeded Ford C. Frick as manager of the National League Service Bureau, a post he held for ten years. He would go on to develop and record a radio sports program over the Mutual Broadcasting System. Dr. Brandt’s name would become synonymous with baseball during the period from World War I and into the 1930s.

In 1950, Dr. Brandt joined Muhlenberg College, his undergraduate alma mater, as executive assistant to the president and public relations director—a position that prepared him to serve as executive assistant to the chairman of the Board of Trustees of PCO in 1951. At both educational institutions, he combined his knowledge of public relations with administrative expertise.

In 1952, Dr. Brandt succeeded Frederick A. Long, DO 1924, as dean at PCO. Sherwood R. Mercer, AB, AM, assumed the position a year later when Dr. Brandt was appointed president. Dr. Brandt served as president for five years, overseeing the College, then located at 48th and Spruce Streets, during a time of facility expansion and historic celebration (75th anniversary). During his tenure, PCO pioneered educational standards within the osteopathic profession and produced physicians who increasingly were viewed to be on par—and in competition—with their allopathic counterparts. Also of note, under Dr. Brandt’s direction, the Osteopathic Digest took its place among publications of the profession.

Upon his retirement from PCO, Dr. Brandt acted as interim editor of the American Osteopathic Association’s publications in Chicago. He passed away in 1963.

Time Magazine of November 1st was a popular issue all over the world of Osteopathy. Page 77 carried a headline ‘Vision of the Future’ and the text conveyed a scholarly statement of the fundamental principle of Osteopathy, first enunciated by Dr. Still and the basis of osteopathic practice and progress ever since. It says that just last week (!) before a packed audience at the New York Academy of Medicine, Dr. René Jules Dubos suggested a radically new (!) approach: work not on the microbes but on the patient (!!!) … This ear has absorbed a multitude of comments by D.O.’s all over …”

- Dr. Brandt in a quip for Osteopathic Digest, December 1954

President from 1957 to 1974; Chancellor

Frederic H. Barth, DSc (Hon.), LLD (Hon.)A businessman, civic leader and government servant, Frederic H. Barth, DSc (Hon.), LLD (Hon.), devoted over a quarter of a century of active leadership to the College. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Dr. Barth was a long-time resident of Philadelphia who graduated from the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science. He operated rubber and hardware supply companies and held patents for textile equipment.

His interest and belief in osteopathic medicine began when his arthritis was improved through visits to an osteopathic physician. When he was invited in 1948 to serve as a member of the board of directors of the hospital and then as a member of the board of directors of Philadelphia College of Osteopathy, he undertook the service wholeheartedly. By the year’s end, he became chairman of both boards. Dr. Barth was a driving force behind the amalgamation of the two entities into a single Pennsylvania corporation. When the merger was completed in 1953, he served as president of the combined board.

In 1957, Dr. Barth was elected president of the College, a post he held until 1974, directly stepping into the role of chancellor.

Dr. Barth understood the social, professional and financial context in which the College had to develop. He sought to have the College become a Pennsylvania domestic corporation to make it eligible to receive support from the Commonwealth for its educational program.

Under Dr. Barth’s leadership, the Women’s Homeopathic Hospital at 20th and Susquehanna Avenue was purchased for inpatient and outpatient services and became a major teaching facility. He administered the purchase of the Moss estate on City Avenue for a new campus and hospital complex and procured the funds for the construction of the Frederic H. Barth Pavilion Hospital and H. Walter Evans Hall. He originated healthcare outreach clinics in Philadelphia and Sullivan County, and developed the program that resulted in the construction of Overmont House.

Dr. Barth played a significant role in the educational activities of the osteopathic profession. A member of the American Association of Osteopathic Colleges, he served as its president in 1969. He likewise sought out areas of civic service. In 1959, President Eisenhower appointed Dr. Barth acting postmaster of Philadelphia, and in 1971, President Nixon placed him on the United States delegation to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

Dr. Barth was the recipient of the O.J. Snyder Memorial Medal in 1970. In 1976, he died in the osteopathic hospital named in his honor, Frederic H. Barth Pavilion.

“We must do everything we can to continue the improvement of health care. We must do so, however, in such a way as to preserve the freedom which has been the basis of the progress of health care to the high level it has attained. … that an integral factor in the freedom of health care is the continuing independence of the osteopathic profession as a separate and distinct school of the healing art.”

- Dr. Barth, 1964 Address

President from 1974 to 1984

Thomas Mifflin Rowland, Jr., DO (Hon.), LLD (Hon.), DSc (Hon.)Thomas Mifflin Rowland, Jr., DO (Hon.), LLD (Hon.), DSc (Hon.), joined the College staff in 1950, a veteran of World War II with service in the European Theater of Operations with the 442nd Troop Carrier Command of the U.S. Army Air Forces. He was a graduate of Temple University who had done postgraduate studies in public administration. He progressively advanced through administrative posts at the College—assistant registrar, registrar, director of admissions, administrative assistant to the president, vice president for administrative affairs, and executive vice president—before becoming PCOM’s youngest president at age 49, in 1974.

During his tenure as president, Dr. Rowland coordinated the operation of Barth Pavilion, inaugurated a School of Allied Health and nurtured the growth of the PCOM Healthcare Centers. He directed the purchase and renovation of an empty office building next to campus and designated the complex the Osteopathic Medical Center of Philadelphia.

Under Dr. Rowland’s watch, PCOM grew to become the ninth largest medical college in the United States in terms of enrollment and the largest of the 15 osteopathic colleges.

Dr. Rowland was a dedicated educator, a recipient of the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching. In 1960, he was appointed to the faculty as instructor in public relations and professional economics, areas of study that emphasized the relationships and responsibilities of the osteopathic physician to the community. In 1972, the department was named the Department of Community Health; Dr. Rowland served as its chairman. As president, he worked tirelessly to support, enrich and expand the faculty through the implementation of a whole-time faculty plan and the recruitment of PhDs.

Dr. Rowland enthusiastically supported alumni activities and athletics. He instituted the position of class chairman, the Annual Giving Campaign and the Founders’ Day Alumni Dinner Dance. During his earlier years at the College, he coached the basketball team to victory; as president, he backed the formation of soccer and rugby clubs.

Dr. Rowland’s impact extended beyond the PCOM community. Devoted to advancing the osteopathic profession as well as osteopathic education, he served on various committees of the American Osteopathic Association and on the board of governors and as president of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. He also maintained a lifelong interest in politics. He served as leader of Philadelphia’s 11th ward, vice chairman of the GOP City Committee, and delegate to four Republican National Conventions, heading the delegation from Philadelphia in support of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

The last nine months of Dr. Rowland’s life were spent in the hospital he labored to strengthen. He worked to the very end of his life, losing his battle with lung cancer in 1984.

“Above all stands your character and your interest in and deep concern for people. All who have known you and worked with you have felt the reassurance of your presence, your support and your advice. You have built an enviable career of your sense of the importance of each person, your loyalty to the osteopathic profession and your dedication to PCOM.”

- Citation for the degree Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, presented to Dr. Rowland, 1973

President from 1984 to 1990

J. Peter Tilley, DO, MSe (Rad.), FAOCRJ. Peter Tilley, DO, MSe (Rad.), FAOCR, a radiologist with dual certification in nuclear medicine, joined the College’s faculty in 1966 and served as vice chairman of radiology and director of nuclear medicine. He was vice president of operational affairs and chairman of the professional staff prior to his election as the fifth president of PCOM in 1984.

Following the death of Dr. Rowland, who had been a stalwart figure at PCOM for more than three decades, Dr. Tilley attracted the trust and respect of the board, staff and faculty while providing interim leadership. He had strong osteopathic roots; his father, R. MacFarlane Tilley, DO 1923, was a PCOM alumnus. Dr. Tilley himself was a graduate of Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine who fulfilled his internship and residency training at PCOM. He understood the importance of a DO administrator who would be able to stabilize the political environment.

Dr. Tilley’s presidency also came during a time when PCOM experienced a historic fiscal deficit. The period marked the emergence of managed health care; reimbursement policies changed the face of medicine and impacted the demand for medical education. At PCOM, an academic medical center, the situation was compounded. Already battling tuition increases, the College was forced to help finance Barth Pavilion through a period of low census and management problems.

Dr. Tilley and the PCOM Corporation envisioned and implemented a corporate reorganization to diversify the financial responsibility of the institution. This provided a means to include more members of the professional staff in the governance of the various corporate entities. Unfortunately, the reorganization did not effectively correct the problems of the hospital.

While struggling to reestablish firm financial footing, Dr. Tilley looked at new ventures to grow the institution. In 1989, he proposed selling Barth Pavilion. For the staff, faculty and alumni whose lives had revolved around the osteopathic hospital, selling the facility was not a viable option. Factions developed over this issue, which ultimately contributed to Dr. Tilley’s resignation in 1990. Members of the board resigned at that time as well.

“The environment of medical practice may change, but the fundamental reward of a caring person-to-person relationship persists. We are in a time of fundamental change; the long-term under-supply of physicians has been replaced by a perceived physician over-supply. This, in conjunction with attempts to decrease the price of medical care, has resulted in competition, regulation, and a general preoccupation with the business of medicine. This time of change means jeopardy and opportunity. …Our future can be secured by the earned commitment of our graduates, faculty, hospital staffs and organizational leaders. You have my commitment. We must stand together.”

- Dr. Tilley, Commencement and Inauguration, June 1985

Acting President and Chairman of the Board 1990; President from 1990 to 2000; Chancellor; Professor Emeritus

Leonard H. Finkelstein, DO ’59, MSc ’63, FACOSA former pharmacist, researcher and clinician in the field of urologic surgery, Leonard H. Finkelstein, DO ’59, MSc ’63, FACOS, joined the PCOM faculty in 1970. In 1973, he was named chairman of the Division of Urology and, in this capacity, advanced the College’s urologic specialty and residency program.

In 1989, Dr. Finkelstein led a group of clinical faculty opposed to the sale of Barth Pavilion. He became the College’s acting president and chairman of the board upon the resignation of Dr. Tilley and the Honorable J. Sydney Hoffman [board chairman] in 1990. The acting portion of his title was soon dropped, and he was appointed the College’s sixth president and chief executive officer. Herbert Lotman, LLD (Hon.), assumed the position of chairman of the board.

As president, Dr. Finkelstein would preside over a decade of transformative progress at PCOM, ensuring the efficacy of the College’s mission and restoring stability to the institution.

Dr. Finkelstein was responsible for the purchase of Metropolitan Hospital’s Parkview Division (1990), and the ultimate sale of both Parkview and Barth Pavilion to Graduate Health System in 1993. A strike by District 1199C of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, the loss of the College’s state subsidy, and the hemorrhaging cost of reimbursement policies made many realize the hospital sales were the only way to save the College. Through these transactions, Dr. Finkelstein orchestrated a financial turnaround for the College. Within the fiscal year, the College’s financial status moved from a $6 million deficit to a $4 million surplus.

Throughout his tenure, Dr. Finkelstein enhanced the College’s curriculum, expanded the graduate medical education program, and oversaw an ambitious master facilities plan that resulted in a modern campus. He instituted an administrative team, including Kenneth J. Veit, DO ’76, MBA, dean, and Samuel H. Steinberg, executive vice president. Furthermore, he rebuilt the College’s financial foundation through a $25 million capital campaign.

He was a staunch advocate for the osteopathic profession, its teaching and growth. He served as president of the American Osteopathic Foundation Board of Directors and the Pennsylvania Osteopathic Medical Association. He was a recipient of the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, the Distinguished Osteopathic Surgeon Award from the American College of Osteopathic Surgeons and a Presidential Citation from the American Osteopathic Association for his commitment to unity within the osteopathic profession. He was awarded both the PCOM Alumni Association Certificate of Honor and the O.J. Snyder Memorial Medal.

In 2000, Dr. Finkelstein stepped down as president to serve as chancellor, a post he held until his death in 2019. He retired from his academic posts in 2014 and was named professor emeritus in 2015.

“Well, I guess my strength would be that I am about as focused as anybody can be. I have had a vision and a mission, and I’ve just stayed with it. And I think that if I had not done anything [else], I’ve established myself as credible, and when I say something, that is the way it is. And that whether people like me or don’t like me, I hope that I’m looked at as being fair. I have tried to do what was in the best interest of the College, the people that work for the College who are part of the College, and those that have gone through the College. Because what they are and what the College is, is what I am.”

- Dr. Finkelstein in a 1996 interview for PCOM’s Oral History Project

President from 2000 to 2014

Matthew Schure, PhDMatthew Schure, PhD, was installed as the College’s seventh president and chief executive officer in 2000. Prior to his post at PCOM, he spent 30 years at New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), an institution founded by his father. At NYIT, Dr. Schure served as professor of behavioral sciences, associate dean for academic assessment and chair of the department of community medicine; he was appointed president and chief executive officer in 1991.

Among the major strategic priorities of Dr. Schure’s tenure at PCOM was growth of the College, both in scope and size. He directed the addition of graduate programs in organizational development and leadership, forensic medicine, and school psychology, and he enlarged clinical teaching fellowships.

In 2001, Dr. Schure oversaw the purchase of the former City Avenue Hospital. The building was razed, and a parcel of the land was sold. Investment income from the sale was earmarked for need-based student scholarships. In 2005, he led the opening of PCOM Georgia (Suwanee, Georgia), the College’s first branch campus and first reach into the South.

During Dr. Schure’s tenure, the Center for Chronic Disorders of Aging was created to enhance basic science and clinical research. Competency-based assessment as a method to train students was propelled by the opening of the College’s first clinical learning and assessment center.

In collaboration with the PCOM Board of Trustees, Dr. Schure aligned strategic objectives with business plans. He was able to suppress the rate of tuition increases for more than a decade.

At the same time, he substantially built the College’s endowment during two recessionary periods. The Fund for PCOM grew to a reliable $1 million unrestricted annual fund program.

Dr. Schure was a proponent of osteopathic education. He served as chairman of the American Osteopathic Association Council on Pre-doctoral Education and chairman of the board of governors of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.

A native of Queens, New York, Dr. Schure held a bachelor’s degree from Queens College and a doctoral degree, a master of philosophy degree, and a master of arts degree in educational psychology from Columbia University. He died in 2023.

“With the strong foundation forged by our history, and an unlimited future fueled by our energy and resolve, this institution will make an ever greater difference in the lives of those it touches. May we continue to experience great joy as we do our work, and may we gather to reflect upon the outcomes of our efforts and collectively exclaim: ‘How filled with awe is this place.’ ”

- Dr. Schure, Inauguration, January 25, 2002

President from 2014 to Present

Jay S. Feldstein, DO ’81Jay S. Feldstein, DO ’81, was appointed the eighth president and chief executive officer of the College in 2014, bringing to the post leadership acumen in healthcare management and patient care. Board-certified in occupational medicine and a fellow of the American College of Preventive Medicine, Dr. Feldstein previously served as president of the Northern Division, Pennsylvania Managed Care Plans, and as corporate chief medical officer/senior vice president and chief medical officer/senior vice president, medical affairs, at AmeriHealth Caritas. He also held executive positions at Aetna, Concentra Health Center, Occupational Health Resources, Inc., and Spectracare Occupational Health Services.

In his first year at PCOM, Dr. Feldstein initiated a strategic planning process for the institution, resulting in PCOM 2020: A Shared Vision; a second plan, PCOM 2025: Path to Greater Excellence, followed in course. He also launched the PCOM Primary Care Innovation Fund to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship in health care.

Beginning in 2016, Dr. Feldstein steered the establishment of PCOM South Georgia, extending the College’s commitment to the state of Georgia. The rural teaching location opened in 2019.

Dr. Feldstein navigated the College through the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing recession and affirmed institutional commitment to the advancement of health equity. In 2020, he created the President’s Council on Equity, Inclusion and Justice, and in 2021, he formed the Community Wellness Initiative. Dr. Feldstein continues to lend his experience to programs that enhance pathway opportunities for academically diverse learners, diversify the healthcare and scientific workforce, and foster equity in healthcare access and health outcomes. For his work, Dr. Feldstein was awarded the CEO Leadership Award from the Pennsylvania Diversity Council, and the inaugural Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Unification Award from the American Osteopathic Association. He was also appointed by Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro and Lieutenant Governor Austin Davis to serve on the administration’s Transition Advisory Committee on Health and Human Services, advising on education and health care in underserved areas across of the Commonwealth.

Throughout Dr. Feldstein’s tenure, the College has expanded academic degree programs and conceived a Medical Education Center of Excellence. Strategic partnerships formed with Chestnut Hill Hospital (acquired in 2023 through a College Alliance with Temple Health and Redeemer Health), St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, Bayhealth and other healthcare facilities have enlarged clinical training opportunities for DO, physician assistant studies and pharmacy students. Student housing has been added through the conversion of Overmont House, now Meta Christy House. The renovation and expansion of Family Medicine at PCOM, and addition of vybe urgent care, have bolstered the patient service capacity. Research at the College has also been fortified; a long-term research agreement with Organic Remedies sanctions the study of medical cannabis.

“As a community of osteopathic physicians, allied health professionals and behavioral scientists, we continue to advocate for and work toward the betterment of public health, in part, by addressing the inequity and social disparities that we see mirrored in our health system.”

- Dr. Feldstein, Message to the Community, 2021

About Digest Magazine

Digest, the magazine for alumni and friends of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, is published by the Office of Marketing and Communications. The magazine reports on osteopathic and other professional trends of interest to alumni of the College’s Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) and graduate programs at PCOM, PCOM Georgia and PCOM South Georgia.