Wednesday, June 17, 2009

In memoriam: Melvin W. Breese, M.D. (1914-2009)

A visitor to the History of Medicine Room today shared with us news of the passing of Dr. Melvin Wilson Breese, M.D., in Arizona in April. We had missed the brief notice in the Oregonian, which ran on April 8.

Breese graduated from Oregon State College (now Oregon State University) in 1936 and received his medical degree from the University of Oregon Medical School in December of 1943 on the accelerated wartime schedule. During his dual residencies in gynecology & obstetrics and pathology at UOMS, Breese, together with UOMS pathologist Howard L. Richardson, M.D., developed an Atlas of gynecological & obstetrical microscopic pathology for the use of fellow students.( The work was never published, but we have a copy of it in the PNW Archives Collection.)

After finishing his residencies in 1948, Breese immediately joined the clinical faculty in the Dept. of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the medical school. He remained on the volunteer clinical staff through 1994.

In 1961, Breese served as president of the Multnomah County Medical Society, and was elected to the presidency of the Oregon State Medical Society the following year. In 1968, Breese made a splash in the national news when, as chair of the OMA's council on medical education, he bucked medical tradition and shepherded a bill mandating continuing medical education for all society members through the House of Delegates. The OMA was the first state medical association to adopt such a rule, following the lead of the American Academy of General Practice, which was the first medical organization in the United States to require CME.

The September 2, 1968 issue of Newsweek wrote:
The new program, insists Dr. Melvin Breese, chairman of the OMA's council on medical education, is not intended to be a disciplinary 'big stick', but a way of helping members to be more effective physicians. Yet he admits that one reason the requirement was adopted so readily was to head off action to monitor the competence of physicians by the government or agencies outside organized medicine. [emphasis added]
Breese is survived by his wife, three children, seven grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren.

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