History of the Bowl of Hygeia Award
Editor's note: This article was prepared by Jared Savage,
the first Bowl of Hygeia Summer Intern for Wyeth and the American Pharmaceutical
This summer I had a wonderful experience serving as the first
Bowl of Hygeia Summer Intern for Wyeth and the American Pharmaceutical Association.
In this capacity, I dedicated three months to the historical research of the
Bowl of Hygeia Award. It is now my honor to present a summary of my findings
What is the Bowl of Hygeia?
The pharmacy profession has used numerous symbols over the
past centuries. These symbols include, but are not limited to, the mortar and
pestle, the Rx sign, various alchemical symbols, the show globe, the green cross,
the salamander, "A" for apothecary (Apotheke), and the Bowl of Hygeia.
The Bowl of Hygeia is the most widely recognized international
symbol for the profession of pharmacy today. Several sources indicate that the
symbol may have been used as an emblem of St. John dating back to first century
a.d. This is based on the legend that a trophy containing poison was offered
to the apostle. There is also speculation that the Bowl of Hygeia was used as
a symbol for the apothecaries of Italy in 1222, since they used this emblem
during the celebration of the 700th anniversary of the founding of the University
However, no proof has been found to substantiate either of
these claims. We do know that the Bowl of Hygeia was associated with pharmacy
as early as 1796, when the symbol was used on a coin minted for the Parisian
Society of Pharmacy.
The Bowl of Hygeia originated from Greek mythology and is universally
depicted as a snake wrapped in one manner or another around a bowl. Aesculapius
(pronounced Es-Kah-Lay-Pi-Ous and sometimes spelled Asklepios) was the Greek
god of medicine and healing. He was the son of Apollo, who was the son of Zeus.
Zeus became afraid that Aesculapius would render all men immortal because of
his healing power, so he killed him with a thunderbolt.
Temples were built for Aesculapius, and harmless serpents were
found inside. These serpents appeared dead because they were stiff. However,
when picked up and dropped, they slithered away. The people at that time thought
the serpents were brought back to life by the healing powers of Aesculapius,
which ultimately caused them to become the symbol of healing.
Hygeia, the daughter of Aesculapius and the goddess of health,
is usually depicted with a serpent around her arm and a bowl in her hand because
she tended to the temples containing these snakes. We have since separated the
serpent and the bowl from Hygeia, and this has become the internationally recognized
symbol of pharmacy. Now the bowl represents a medicinal potion, and the snake
represents healing. Healing through medicine is precisely why pharmacy has adopted
the Bowl of Hygeia symbol. APhA adopted the Bowl of Hygeia as its symbol to
represent the pharmacy profession in 1964.
What is the Bowl of Hygeia Award?
The Bowl of Hygeia Award is a community service award and is
represented by a 10-in. by 13-in. mahogany plaque, upon which is mounted a brass
casting of the Bowl of Hygeia with an engraved plate containing the name of
the recipient, the state/province presenting the award, and the date of the
presentation. The program was initiated by E. Claiborne Robins, then president
of A. H. Robins Co., which was located in Richmond, Va. Robins, a pharmacist,
was very involved in community service activities and desired to foster that
same sort of feeling among pharmacists around the nation. In 1958, he developed
the idea for the Bowl of Hygeia Award for pharmacists who possess outstanding
records of civic leadership in their own communities.
The Bowl of Hygeia Award was presented for the first time on
Feb. 18, 1958, during the Iowa Pharmaceutical Association's Annual Convention
in Des Moines. The recipient was Richard M. Hofmann of Ottumwa. In addition
to Iowa, Louisiana, Oregon, and Rhode Island also presented the Bowl of Hygeia
Award in 1958. The following year, associations in 27 other states and the District
of Columbia made their initial presentations of the award. The award has been
presented annually in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico
since 1967, when the New Jersey Pharmaceutical Association joined the program
and made its first presentation to Donald "Don" Wernik.
In 1961, the Bowl of Hygeia Award program was expanded to include
Canada when the Pharmaceutical Association of the Province of British Columbia
presented the award to George T. Cunning of Vancouver. The award has been presented
annually in each of the 10 Canadian provinces since 1967 when Prince Edward
Island made its first presentation.
In 1989, American Home Products acquired A. H. Robins, and
Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories became the sponsor of the award. In 2002, to better
reflect its heritage, AHP changed its name to Wyeth and Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories
became Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.
How are recipients selected?
Each recipient of the award is selected by the pharmaceutical
association in his or her state or province (and the District of Columbia and
Puerto Rico) with the primary criterion being an outstanding record of community
service and leadership. Selection committees are required to use the following
1. The recipient must be a pharmacist, licensed within the
jurisdiction in which the award is made.
2. The recipient must be living. Awards are not presented posthumously.
3. The recipient may not have previously received the award.
4. The recipient may not be currently serving, nor may he or
she have served within the immediate past two years, on the awards committee
or as an officer of the association in other than an ex officio capacity.
5. The recipient must have completed an outstanding record
of community service, which apart from his or her specific identification as
a pharmacist, reflects well on the profession.
Historically, most winners of the Bowl of Hygeia Award are
community pharmacy owners who advance the standards of pharmacy. In addition
to service through their local, state, and national pharmaceutical associations,
award recipients have devoted their time, talent, and resources to a wide variety
Some of the recipients have represented their respective communities
in state legislatures or in statewide offices. Many have served as mayor or
a member of their community's governing body. Still others have filled
important positions on planning committees for their local hospital, school,
and other organizations. They have provided leadership for fund drives and countless
special projects and have participated in the work of youth organizations, civic
clubs, churches, and fraternal clubs. It is safe to say that over the years,
Bowl of Hygeia Award recipients have been honored for virtually every type of
In most states, the nominations for the award are prepared
secretly. A peer or colleague of a deserving pharmacist will nominate that individual
on the basis of his or her community service involvement. Leaders involved with
the state or province associations select the winner and do not announce the
results until the state or province pharmacy association meetingwhere
the Bowl of Hygeia Award is presented.
Usually, the family of the award winner is invited secretly,
and attendees of the meeting who are actively involved in community service
wait with anticipation to discover the winner of the prestigious award. As a
rule, the Bowl of Hygeia Award is the last award to be presented at the state
or province pharmacy association meeting, and when the award winner is announced,
the family members of the winner come out to see their loved one receive the
Every state or province pharmacy association presents the award
in a unique manner, and the selection and presentation process mentioned above
does not necessarily represent the process used in each location.
Wyeth also sponsors the presentation of a master Bowl of Hygeia
Award plaque to each state pharmacy association. This beautiful plaque contains
the brass casting of the Bowl of Hygeia, together with the name of all the past
winners in the state, their hometown, and the date of the award presentation.
Tom Temple, executive v.p. and CEO of the Iowa Pharmacy Association, developed
the idea of the master plaque in 1992. Jacob W. Miller, now retired but then
assistant v.p. of professional relations for Wyeth-Ayerst, obtained approval
and developed the design of the plaque.
Each year, seven state plaques have been presented to different
state pharmacy associations, and soon each state pharmacy association will have
its own beautiful master plaque displaying its state's past Bowl of Hygeia
Let's get together!
Each fall since 1963, Bowl of Hygeia Award winners for the
current year have been invited to be guests of the company for a special salute
held at the company's headquarters. From 19631989, guests were invited
to Richmond, and when A. H. Robins was acquired by AHP (now known as Wyeth)
in 1989, the salute was moved to Philadelphia, where it is currently celebrated.
The program in Philadelphia is highlighted by a gala reception and dinner customarily
attended by the presidents of APhA, the Canadian Pharmaceutical Association,
the National Community Pharmacists Association, and the National Council of
State Pharmaceutical Association Executives, who bring congratulations to the
honorees from their organizations.
In addition to the plaque, each of the Bowl of Hygeia Award
winners is presented with a lapel pin at the Philadelphia gathering, which is
a scale replica of the mahogany plaque. Robert G. Gibbs, former executive director
of the Iowa Pharmacy Association, suggested the introduction of these pins in
1960. The pins were first presented in 1964, and a special distribution was
made to all who had received the award in prior years. This is the first year
(2002) that all recipients will receive the lapel pin. In past years, a stickpin
was given to female recipients of the award.
In addition to the pin, a photograph is taken of the winner
with his or her spouse or loved one, both standing next a beautiful, handmade,
sterling silver Bowl of Hygeia. During the reception, the winners' loved
ones are asked to explain the events leading up to the presentation of the award
to their recipient. The stories often bring gales of laughter or gentle tears.
In conjunction with the special salute, Wyeth sponsors a full-page
magazine advertisement that features photographs of the current-year award winners,
indicating that these pharmacists have been cited for outstanding service to
their respective communities. The ad was initially published in Time magazine
and the NARD Journal in 1963. The ad for 1976 and subsequent years appeared
in American Pharmacy (now the Journal of the American Pharmaceutical
Association), the NARD Journal (now the National Community Pharmacists
Association's America's Pharmacist), the Canadian Pharmaceutical
Journal, and state pharmacy association journals in an effort to provide greater
recognition for the award winners.
The future of the Bowl of Hygeia Award
The Bowl of Hygeia Internship began in 2002 and is offered
to pharmacy students. One applicant is accepted for this prestigious internship
from a national applicant pool. Wyeth and APhA jointly sponsor this 12-week
summer internship to provide exposure to various roles within the pharmaceutical
industry, exposure to the associations, and the opportunity to conduct historical
research into the prestigious Bowl of Hygeia Award.
Soon, Wyeth will sponsor the Bowl of Hygeia Leadership Series.
This will be a series of lectures on leadership within the community. Wyeth
will invite two or three of the past winners of the Bowl of Hygeia Award to
speak on community leadership.
References are available upon request.
History of the Bowl of Hygeia award. Drug Topics 2002;19.