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In order to promote professional discourse, to sanction medical skills, and “to distinguish the true Physician from the ignorant Pretender . . . possibly suppressing the fatal and criminal practices of Quacks,” in 1799 the Medical Society of North Carolina was incorporated by the legislature. The group held a few productive meetings but appears to have disbanded by 1805.
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At a State Medical Convention held in Raleigh on April 16, 1849, the new Medical Society of North Carolina, a constituent of the American Medical Association, was organized. Dr. Edmund Strudwick of Hillsborough was selected to serve as the first president. There were four vice presidents as follows: Doctors Fabius J. Haywood and Charles E. Johnson of Raleigh, Dr. James E. Williamson of Caswell County, and Dr. William G. Thomas of Edgecombe County. Also both from Raleigh, Dr. William H. McKee was the secretary and Dr. William G. Hill, the treasurer. The objectives of this incarnation of the society were “the advancement of medical knowledge, the elevation of professional character and the promotion of all measures of a professional nature that are adapted to the relief of suffering humanity, and to improve the health and protect the lives of the community.” In keeping with the effort to advance the profession, only men with medical degrees from accredited schools were allowed to join.
After years of discussions about the need for a regulatory body, the society in 1858 determined to petition the legislature to approve a Board of Medical Examiners. A bill creating the Board of Medical Examiners and placing the board under the jurisdiction of the Medical Society of North Carolina was adopted in 1859. The board languished in its inability to enforce its authority until 1885, when it became a misdemeanor to practice medicine without first being licensed by the board. Also in 1858 the society launched the Medical Journal of North Carolina. Disrupted by the Civil War, the journal ceased publication in 1861 and was not revived until 1940 as the North Carolina Medical Journal.
The first woman to be admitted into the Medical Society of North Carolina was Susan Dimock of Washington, who was given an honorary membership in 1872. The first woman licensed and given full membership was Dr. Annie Lowrie Alexander in 1885. African Americans were extended full memberships beginning in 1965. The organization, once again known as the North Carolina Medical Society, maintains its headquarters across from the Governor’s Mansion in Raleigh.
Dorothy Long, ed., Medicine in North Carolina (1972)
John Wesley Long, Early History of the North Carolina Medical Society (c. 1917)
Marshall Delancey Haywood, “The North Carolina Medical Society of 1799-1804,” North Carolina Booklet (January 1917)
North Carolina Medical Society website: http://www.ncmedsoc.org/index.html