Joseph W. Bourland, Sr., obstetrician and gynecologist, the son of Hillen Armour and Priscilla (Howland) Bourland, was born on October 21, 1872, in Hannibal, Missouri. He received his bachelor's degree at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and his medical degree at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York. He served his internship at Elizabeth General Hospital and Dispensary in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and completed his residency at the New York Infant Asylum in New York. He established a private practice in Dallas in 1897.
In 1915 Bourland became one of the first doctors in Dallas to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology and is credited with the invention of the incubator for premature infants. He served as a captain in World War I in the medical corps of the United States Army. After the war he served ten years as chief of obstetrical services at Florence Nightingale Maternity Hospital, a division of Baylor University Hospital, and ten years as a member of the board of governors at Parkland Hospital. In addition to his private practice he taught at both Baylor College of Medicine and Southwestern Medical School, after Baylor moved to Houston in 1943.
Bourland belonged to the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American Medical Association, the Southern Medical Association, and the Texas Medical Association. In 1935 he was a president of the Texas Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. He was also a member of the American College of Surgeons and the Dallas Southern Clinical Society and the founder and director of the Dallas Medical and Surgical Clinic before his retirement in 1954. He was a member of the First Methodist Church, where his father had been pastor, and was a member of the board of stewards for twenty years. He was married to Virgie Bookhout, and they had three children. On February 20, 1960, Bourland died at the home of his son in Dallas. He is buried at Oakland Cemetery.