The ACS motto:
What does it really mean?
by Frederick K. Weber, MD, JD, FACS
Editor’s note: The following is an edited version of the Presidential
Address that Fred Weber, MD, JD, FACS, delivered at the 63rd
annual Clinical Symposium of the New Jersey Chapter of the
American College of Surgeons, which took place December 6, 2014.
The American College of Surgeons (ACS) was founded in 1913 to foster the highest ideals in the practice of surgery. The College continues with this
mission today, inspiring quality, providing education,
maintaining the highest standards in surgery, and
thereby providing better outcomes for our patients.
Origins of the ACS seal and motto
In establishing the organization, the founders of the ACS
sought to develop a logo for the College that would also
contain a short sentence or phrase that would express a
rule guiding the behavior of the Fellows. In 1915, the first
Director of the ACS, John G. Bowman, MD, FACS, urged
the Regents and the ACS Secretary, Franklin H. Martin,
MD, FACS, to authorize a competition among Chicago, IL,
artists to develop the seal for the College. Paul Frederick
Volland, who ran a publishing company in Chicago, IL,
entered the contest, and his seal containing the Latin
phrase, Omnibus per artem fidemque prodesse, was selected.
So what does omnibus per artem fidemque prodesse mean?
What is the literal translation? What does it signify?
Why is this motto still important to us today? The
traditional translation has been “to serve all with
skill and fidelity.” My version is slightly different. To
understand the full interpretation of the motto, though,
it is helpful to consider each Latin word separately. 1, 2
Prodesse: Latin places the verb at the end of the sentence,
so the reader is held in suspense until the last word. At the
end of the motto is prodesse. It is the present infinitive of the
Omnibus per artem