The Early Years:
Most pioneer physicians were not actually doctors of medicine. Instead, they developed their art through the apprenticeship model. After 1830, medical schools sprang up all over the western countryside and are documented to have trained 100 to 200 physicians each training session. Soon jealousies arose between those who had medical degrees and those who did not. Years of attempts to protect the public from charlatans and poorly trained physicians failed repeatedly, and by 1833 the state stopped trying to regulate the practice of the healing arts. As a result and to the dismay of well-intentioned medical professors of this era, medical schools were not elevating school standards and requirements. Many practicing physicians of the healing arts never attended a medical school and were not fluent on the medical literature available.
In 1846, confronted with this crisis, a small group of physicians who held degrees from recognized medical schools met to form an organization to “foster legislation and activities which would safeguard the interests of the public against knavery and incompetence and elevate the standards of the medical profession.” The Ohio State Medical Society (later named the Ohio State Medical Association) was organized in a parlor of the old Neil House in Columbus, Ohio, on a Thursday evening, May 14, 1846. Dr. George W. Boerstler of Lancaster presided and became the society’s first president. A Board of Censors was appointed and 25 physicians were admitted to the charter membership. In February 1848, the Ohio Legislature granted a charter in which the newly formed organization was made “a body corporate and politic by the name of the ‘Ohio State Medical Society.’”
The society adopted a constitution and code of bylaws on May 16, 1848. Later, on May 28, 1902, the Ohio State Medical Society changed its name to the Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA). A House of Delegates was created with representatives from each county medical society. The component county societies were divided into districts, and one representative was elected by the House from each district to serve on the Council which was, and is today, the governing body of the association.
A Volunteer Medical Service Corps was developed in World War I. It provided that every physician in the United States apply for membership in the corps, and that through its central governing board, medical men were drawn for the Army, the Navy, and for “necessary civilian service.” The Ohio State Medical Association had heavy responsibility in this plan in order to obtain a sufficient number of physicians for an enlarged army as well as a collateral obligation - that of protecting the civilian population from being stripped of medical services.
World War II was a great strain on the medical profession. It was said that the total number of physicians in the military at that time represented 40 percent of the active medical profession of the United States. State medical associations were at the hub of the recruiting process for World War II. Physicians of military-age were encouraged to volunteer in order that drafting of doctors would be unnecessary. The Ohio State Medical Association assisted with the recruiting process, and was obligated to make certain no Ohio communities were stripped of medical services.
When peace came, the OSMA continued to serve in an advisory capacity to the War Department with regard to the release of medical officers from the Armed Services. The officers were released on a point system, which involved length of service and other factors, and attention was given to critical needs of communities.
The war was over, the medical officers were coming back, and the year was 1946 - the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Ohio State Medical Association. It was pointed out at the centennial meeting that the new medical and surgical developments would be of great assistance to post-war physicians. The address given at the centennial banquet warned of the movement advocating government control of medicine and discussed programs of the OSMA to combat government medicine.
In the 1950’s, the U.S. Army requested a civilian committee of doctors to advise on matters relating to the mobilization of medical officers. A committee was appointed, with members from each district. Civil defense also received great emphasis during this time, and physicians from the OSMA gave lectures on civil defense procedures and participated in disaster drills in cooperation with local hospitals.
Courageous, conscientious physicians who wanted to improve their noble profession created the OSMA. This goal continues today through medical liability reform, political advocacy, education and physician leadership. The OSMA serves a vital role in Ohio, advising state departments on health issues and giving Ohio’s physicians a voice in legislative issues.
Ohio State Medical Association – Bringing physicians together for a healthier Ohio.
(Excerpts and information credited to: “The History of the Ohio State Medical Association,” by Hart F. Page, C.A.E.)