Friday, March 28, 2008

History of the Multnomah County Medical Society

We received in today's mail the History of the Multnomah County Medical Society, 1884-1954, written by George M. Robins, M.D. Supplied to us by Rob Delf, current president of the Medical Society of Metropolitan Portland--the immediate successor to the MCMS--this copy of the brief history seems to be the first to have fallen into the hands of a library collection.

The first 67 pages of the text cover the history of the Society from its inception until 1954. Included are census figures for the population of Portland from 1880 to 1990, so that readers can compare membership numbers and activities from the beginning (1880 pop. 17,577) to contemporary times (1990 pop. 437,319) using the proper frame of reference.

Herein, we learn that minutes for the Society meetings are extant for the years 1884-1905, but that after 1905 "no minutes were written or have not yet been found." I wonder whether they suffered the same fate as those of the Aesculapian Club.

The history also contains a nice, concise history of medical education in Portland prior to 1887:
Medical education in the Portland area, prior to the founding of the [University of Oregon] medical school, had been either by preceptorship or by the Willamette Medical Department. There had been founded, in Portland, a Portland Medical School in 1865. Apparently, it soon became defunct. There has also been founded an Oregon Homeopathic Medical College, which soon also ceased to exist. There is no record that either medical college graduated any MDs.
And, I now have in hand two pieces with conflicting information about the year in which Dr. Mae Cardwell joined the Society, becoming the first woman physician to do so. (One source says 1892, this source 1902). Contradictory information is certainly not unusual in historical documents, but frustrating nonetheless. And if Robins' date turns out to be incorrect, we can't expect contrition on his part: the title page carries the disclaimer "all the errors are of his [the author's] own making but no apologies are given."

Following the main history is an 11-page index providing short histories of hospitals in the Multnomah area, including (take a deep breath now):
the hospital at Ft. Vancouver, St. Joseph's Hospital (Vancouver), Oregon Insane Hospital; Multnomah County Hospital; St. Vincent Hospital; Good Samaritan Hospital; Women's Hospital and Sanitarium; Portland Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital; the Methodist hospital affiliated with the Willamette University Medical Department in Portland (which remained nameless); Homeopathic Hospital, later called Hahnemann Hospital, then called Holladay Park; the Veterans Administration Medical Center; Shriner's Hospital for Crippled Children; Doernbecher Memorial Hospital; Portland Adventist Hospital and Medical Center; Physicians and Surgeons Hospital (previously called North Pacific Sanitarium, Portland Surgical, Coffey Clinic and Hospital, and Coffey Memorial Hospital); Emanuel Hospital; Wildwood Nursing Home, which became the Gresham General Hospital; Eastmoreland General Hospital; Pacific Gateway Hospital (which started as the Sellwood General Hospital and became the Portland General Hospital before changing its name a third time); Bess Kaiser Hospital; and Providence Hospital.

This section should be a great starting point for unraveling the mystery surrounding many of these early hospitals: since the name-change game was so popular, it's nice to have a single source which quickly traces some of the early morphing. Now, if only he'd included maps, too...


Donald said...

This is fascinating! My history master's thesis will probably address the Multnomah County Medical Society, and I was wondering what kinds of primary source documents are available on this organization.

Sara Piasecki said...

And we're getting more resources all the time, so check back with us when you're starting your research. The Society itself is also a good source of information on the history.