Iowa History Project
Medicine in Iowa
by D.S. Fairchild, M.D., F.A.C.S.
reprinted from The Journal of the Iowa State Medical Society, 1927
transcribed from the original book for the Iowa History Project by S. Ferrall
Part Sixth - The Iowa State Medical Society
pg 103 - 132
The organization of the Iowa State Medical Society in 1850 was due to the efforts of Dr. John F. Sanford of Davenport.
On May 1, 1849, Dr. Sanford attended the session of the American Medical Association held in Boston as a delegate from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the Upper Mississippi, then located in Davenport, and later known as the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Keokuk. Dr. Sanford was so impressed by the appeal to organize the state medical societies that on his return home he wrote many letters to physicians urging them to meet in Burlington, June 19, 1850, for the purpose of organizing the Iowa State Medical Society. Fearing that sufficient interest would not be aroused by correspondence alone, he concluded to make a personal appeal and took the stage to Keosauqua, Fairfield, Mount Pleasant, Washington and Davenport, and steamer to Muscatine, Burlington, Fort Madison and Keokuk.
On June 19, 1850, twenty-five physicians gathered at the court room in Burlington, Dr. J.F. Sanford acting as temporary chairman and Dr. E.D. Ransom as temporary secretary.
Professor Sanford delivered an able and eloquent address on the objects contemplated by the convention and which should engage it attention during the present session.
A committee was appointed to prepare and present a
constitution. The committee consisted of Drs. J.F. Henry
and E. Lowe of Des Moines County, Dr. McGugin of Keokuk,
Dr. Elbert of Keosauqua and Dr. Witherwax of Davenport.
The following officers were elected:
The Burlington Tri-Weekly Telegraph presents the following report of the meeting:
Dr. Lowe, on being conducted to the chair, made a brief and appripriate address in which he returned thanks to the association for the honor which they conferred upon him. This is a compliment of no ordinary character, and it has been bestowed upon one who stands deservedly high, not only in his profession, but in the confidence and esteem of all who know him.
Charter members of the Iowa State Medical Society:
Seven of these organizers were afterwards elected president and one of them occupied the chair twice. Dr. John F. Sanford, who did more to promote the organization of the Society than any one else, called the meeting to order, made an able address, acted as chairman during the organization and should have been considered the first president. He was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and was for many years one of the most prominent surgeons in the state. He was the prime mover in the organization, of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Keokuk and was professor of surgery in that institution for four years. He died in 1874.
At this the first session of the Iowa State Medical Society, Dr. D.L. McGugin of Keokuk introduced the following resolution which was adopted:
The second meeting of the Iowa State Medical Society was held in Fairfield on the first Wednesday in May, 1851.
At this meeting Dr. J.F. Sanford presented an interesting report on the causes which contribute to depress the science and dignity of the medical profession of Iowa. One of the most prolific causes for the unhappy condition of the profession was due to a want of preliminary education in those who have entered the profession, and this was thought to be the most influential cause of depression among us. It is stated that every community must form its estimates of medical men from their proficiency to a knowledge of things of their acquaintances, with the departments of learning which may be made familiar to the popular mind.
The second most prolific cause which tended to lower the estimation of the profession in the minds of the public, refers to the influence of ignorance upon the physicians themselves. The extensive relation that medicine must ever maintain with other branches of knowledge, deprives a physician who is ignorant of the general principles of natural science, of all those instrumentalities which are necessary to develop the resources of his profession, and it not only disqualifies him from adding to the existing stock of valuable facts, but excludes him also from participating in the benefits of many of those brilliant truths, whose development has so greatly distinguished the modern cultivators of our art.
"Being thus deprived of the only means of attaining diestinction in his profession, and uninspired by the lights that physical science trows araound his path, he becomes indifferent to the progress and often to the honor of the profession.
"The third cause of the depression of medical science in this state is the commencement, by young men, of the practice of the profession before they are thoroughly qualified." (We presume Dr. Sanford refers to young men who practiced without medical college training or on one course of lectures.) "This evil had its beginning at a remote period, when the facilities for completing a medical education were beyond the means of a large number who annually entered the profession." Dr. Sanford proceeds to speak in praise of the muliplication of medical colleges as a means of overcoming these defects. (Quite different from the sentiment existing today among medical educators.)
Dr. Sanford does not forget to deprecate the habit of some regular physicians of entering into consultation with quacks of various kinds, wihch he reasons as one cause for the depression of medical practice. Dr. Sanford enumerates still another cause for the low standing of the medical profession; the practice of attending families by the year. He further says; "The medical service of an enlightened and benevolent physician are not to be made an article of traffic and bargain. His commerce is with the health, the lives and happiness of the human race, and should be as free from purely mercenary influence, as is his honor and reputation. But there is a principle of justice as well as propriety, outraged by this practice. If an intelligent man's estimate of a physician is not reduced by the mere fact of the bargain itself, it certainly is affected at the end of the year, when he comes to pay the physician $15 or $20 for nothing done, or for four times that amount of service. Again, physicians are often retained in a family by virtue of a contract of this kind, long after they have ceased to be preferred - a circumstance which almost invariably causes them to loose the respect as well as the confidence of those who are thus bound.
"These observations relate to individual instances, yet sufficiently numerous to justify what we have briefly said, every member of the society will appriciate the importance of individual rectitude to the reputation of the whole profession, where lines of distinction are not fairly established. Our profession, as a whole, stands preeminent for public virtue, probity and usefulness; yet the individual shortcomings of its members have often excited a popular and erroneous prejudice against it."
Much more was said by Dr. Sanford which we have not space to abstract, and we are lead to wonder whether the seventy years which have passed since Dr. Sanford presented this address has brought about any material improvement in ethics, or whether the standards of professional morality ave improved in the long period since Dr. Sanford wrote the words quoted. Whatever may be the facts, we read with pride the words emitted from the founder of the Iowa State Medical Society in the first formal report.
Dr. E.W. Lowe in his opening address at the Fairfield meeting in 1851, called attention to an epidemic of cholera in Burlington during the summer of 1850 and offered some remarks on the death of Dr. Bruning, "a native of Germany, a reputable scholar and devoted student, a graduate of the medical department of the Missouri State University, who fell a victim to the disease."
The Committee on Constitution and By-laws appointed at the first meeting in Burlington in 1850, reported the following constitution and by-laws together with nineteen rules of ethics taken largely from the code adopted by the American Medical Association which remained in force until 1872 when they were rewriten. Prior to this time, there being few county societies, any regular physician in good standing could, on application and passing a satisfactory examination before the borad of censors, become a member. In 1873, a new constitution and by-laws was adopted basing membership on election by a county society, after such election the delegate became a permanent member provided he paid his dues annually. This delegate plan remained in force until 1904 when the re-organization plan of the American Medical Association went into effect throughout the United States.
List of Members (May 19, 1850)
[Note: The Constitution, by-laws and rule of ethics adopted at the Burlington meeting, May 19, 1850, on pages 110-117. They have not been transcribed for this digital version of the book. -SF, transcriber]
The first session was held on June 19, 1850. The second session in Fairfield on the first Wednesday in May, 1851. From this date to 1867, we have no record of the place of meeting except that the session of 1867 was the fourth meeting in Davenport. We have No. 12 - Volume I - 1854, of the Iowa Medical Journal and in the index it is noted that on page 320 an account was given of the meeting of the Iowa State Medical Society.
We pass on to 1867 when the Iowa State Medical Society met at the Council Chamber in Davenport, May 22, 1867 at 10:00 o'clock A.M. the attendance "being fair." The president of the Society, Dr. J.W.H. Baker, took the chair and called the meeting to order. At the request of the president, prayer was then offered by Rev. S.M. Anderson of the Presbyterian Church.
Dr. T.J. Saunders on behalf of the president of the Scott County Medical Society - Dr. T.J. Iles, whose health was impaired - received the delegates from abroad, in the following address of welcome:
The eighteenth annual session convened in Des Moines, Wednesday, February 5, 1868, Dr. Wm. Watson of Dubuque, president. There were twenty permanent members present and nineteen new members were elected, making a total of thirty-nine members present at the annual session of the Iowa State Medical Society at its first meeting in Des Moines. From Dubuque there was one; Fort Madison, two; Des Moines, seven; Davenport, two; Burlington, two; Ottumwa, two; Keokuk, five; Iowa City, four; Unionville, one; Tama City, one; Blakesburg, one; Winterset, three; Panora, one; Chariton, two; Adel, one; Hartfod, one; Durand Station, one; unable to locate, two.
The contract was let to Dr. J.C. Hughes to publish the transactions of the meeting for $108.
Officers elected at the meeting were as follows: President, Dr. Philip Harvey, Burlington' vice-president, Dr. J.W.H. Baker, Davenport; recording secretary, Dr. A.G. Field, Des Moines; corresponding secretary, Dr. J. Williamson, Ottumwa; treasurer, Dr. M.B. Cochran, Davenport; censors, Dr. H.L. Whitman, Des Moines; Dr. Wm. Gutch, Blakesburg; Dr. William Voght, Iowa City; Dr. S.B. Thrall, Ottumwa, and Dr. G.R. Henry, Burlington.
Delegates to the American Medical Association: Drs. J.C. Stowe, Burlington; Wm. Watson, Dubuque; A.G. Field, Des Moines; W.F. Peck, Davenport; U. Steel, Fairfield; J.C. Schrader, Iowa City; Wm. Corns, Tama City; Dr. Hutchinson, Winterset; S.B. Thrall, Ottumwa and J.C. Hughes, Keokuk.
This being the first session of the Iowa State Medical Society held in Des Moines, we take the liberty to abstract some of the most important measures adopted and as far as possible outline the spirit manifested at that time. A little more than fifty years have elapsed and all the actors have passed away, except one - Dr. A.G. Field - who happily remains watchful of the events as they pass and who still has a just appreciation of the accomplishments of the profession at home and abroad. Such blessings fall to but few, particularly those who have been active participants in professional advancement for more than sixty years.
The Iowa State Medical Society met in the hall of the Good Templars in the City of Des Moines on Wednesday, February 5, 1868, at 10:00 o'clock, A.M. President Wm. Watson of Dubuque in the chair. Prayer was offered by Rev. H.S. De Forest. Dr. H.L. Whitman, president of the Polk County Medical Society "welcomed the members from abroad in an appropriate and well received address."
The afternoon session convened at 2:00 o'clock when President Wm. Watson proceeded to deliver his address. A communication from Dr. M.B. Cochran stated that as treasurer he had in his hands $231.50 belonging to the Society. The report was referred to a committee consisting of Dr. Williamson, Carpenter and Baker.
The committee on order of business consisting of Drs. W. F. Peck, J. C. Hughes and Wm. Watson recommended that a bill be drafted to restrain the impositions of quackery in this state; also a bill to prevent criminal abortion. On motion Drs. Wm. Watson, A. C. Moon and W. F. Peck were appointed to draft a bill to restrain quackery, and Drs. Ed. Whinery, Wm. Watson and H. L. Whitman were appointed as a committee to draft a bill to prevent criminal abortion. The committee reported articles of incorporation and a petition of the Society to the General Assembly, asking that body to recognize the Society as a legally incorporated body.
ARTICLES OF INCORPORATION
Dr. Peck moved that the articles of incorporation, with the petition of members of the Society, be presented to Dr. J. M. Robertson, a member of the state senate, and also a member of this Society, with the request that he would present them before the general assembly, and take such action as is required by law, to render the Society a body corporate according to law motion carried.
In relation to the publication of the transactions the following resolution was adopted:
At the afternoon session on the last day the fol lowing recommendation was adopted in relation to the entertainment of the State Society by the Polk County Medical Society.
It was announced that the members of Polk County Medical Society had provided for an entertainment of the members of the Iowa State Medical Society, to be given at nine oclock this evening, and tickets of admission were distributed. There being no further time for the report of standing committees, or the appointment of new ones, Dr. Cleaver moved that the president be authorized to appoint, after the adjournment of the meeting, new committees to fill all vacancies that have occurred in the proceedings of this meeting. Carried.
That the dignity of the profession might be conserved. Dr. J. Williamson offered the following resolution:
The following named members upon motion were appointed to determine upon a design for, and to procure a seal for the Society before the next annual meeting: Drs. A. G. Field, A. M. Carpenter and Wm. Watson.
The Society placed itself on record in relation to medical education by adopting the following resolution:
Perhaps the sentiments of the profession in 1868 may best be reflected by quoting a part of the able and interesting address of Dr. Wm. Watson, for many years one of the most aggressive and most conservative members of the Society.
Following the eighteenth session of the Iowa State Medical Society held in Des Moines in 1868 when the Society seemed to have reached a period of full development and had become an incorporated body the meetings followed one after an other in regular order with only the ordinary disagreements incident to such bodies and which contribute to progress, (the transactions may be found in the published volumes), various measures were adopted favoring legislation in the direction of securing a health board organization and certain needful legislation relating to the practice of medicine and the advancement of medical education. These activities bring us to the year 1901.
The fiftieth annual session was held in Davenport, May 15, 16, 17, 1901, and was the beginning of a new era in the history of the Society. On the first day of the session Dr. W. J. Findley of Sac City presented a series of resolutions looking to the organization of auxiliary medical societies by districting the state. The discussion on these resolutions brought out the fact that a reorganization plan was being considered by the American Medical Association and that it would be desirable for the Iowa State Medical Society to adopt a constitution and by-laws in conformity with that of the national association. A new committee was therefore appointed consisting of Dr. D. S. Fairchild, Clinton, chairman; Dr. W. J. Findley of Sac City and Dr. Van Buren Knott of Sioux City, to report as soon as practicable. At the fifty-first session, 1902, the committee, through its chairman, Dr. D. S. Fairchild, read a preliminary report on constitution and by-laws and stated that it was the general outline of the new constitution, the committee was unable to make a full presentation of the details as the American Medical Association had not completed its plans for uniformity of organization for state societies; and therefore recommended that further consideration of the report be deferred for one year.
The fifty-second annual session convened at Sioux City, April 15, 16, 17, 1903, at which time Dr. Van Buren Knott in the absence of the chairman read the completed constitution and by-laws, which were adopted although objections were urged on the ground that the final draft differed from the preliminary report of the year before. The objections were overruled on the ground that the matter had been before the Society for two years and that action the previous years was deferred pending the completion of certain details which would bring the constitution and by-laws in conformity with the plan matured by the American Medical Association and which had been adopted by many other states.
Following the Sioux City meeting a spirited controversy was maintained regarding the constitution and functions of the House of Delegates, and the relation of county societies and the councillar system. It was alleged that the plan was Un-American and dangerous to the welfare of the profession depriving members of individual right and was autocratic.
The opposition came largely from those interested in medical politics. During the year six counties withdrew from affiliation with the State Society. At the fifty-third annual session held in Des Moines, May 19, 20, 21, 1904, the question of the legal adoption of the new constitution and by-laws came up on a resolution introduced by former members from Dubuque county and on a referendum vote of the Society the matter was referred to a special committee, which by unanimous vote held that the new constitution was legal and binding. The committee report was adopted by a vote of two hundred to six.
The fifty-fourth annual session in 1905 convened under the new organization with all the county societies in affiliation except six. In two counties, Dubuque and Clinton, the county societies had incorporated and new societies were organized for State Society affiliation, found it necessary to adopt new names and on application were admitted to State Society membership under the new name. In the course of time the opposition to reorganization ceased to exist except in a few individual instances and the new county or ganizations were abandoned. The four counties which refused affiliation finally applied for membership and were admitted. The unrest of the opposing members of the State Society found relief by proposing amendments to the constitution and by-laws, but none were adopted which in any material way conflicted with the general plan of organization. The changing conditions and added experience under the new plan made several amendments necessary which were adopted in good spirit.
In 1907 the State Society adopted a plan of legal protection against malpractice suits under the direction of a committee consisting of Dr. D.S. Fairchild, Dr. L. W. Littig, and Dr. J. M. Emmert.
The same committee was authorized to investigate and report a plan of journalizing the proceedings and in 1905 the Society contracted with the editor of the Iowa Medical Journal, Dr. E. E. Dorr, to publish the transaction of the State Society. At the expiration of this contract in 1911 the State Society adopted a journal of its own and elected Dr. D. S. Fairchild of Clinton, editor. The committee above referred to was appointed in 1904 to report on a plan of medical legal protection, a plan of journalizing the papers and transactions of the State Medical Society and in view of the enlargement of the functions of the Society to present new articles of incorporation. It may safely be said that the Iowa State Society is one of the best organized societies in the United States.
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