While there were local medical clubs in Maine as early as 1791, the first Statewide organization of Maine physicians, called the Medical Society of Maine, was inaugurated with Dr. Samuel Emerson of Kennebunk as President in 1820, the year of Maine’s separation from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. But as MMA President Eugene H. Drake, M.D. (Portland) stated in his President’s address at the Centennial Annual Session in 1953;
“The Medical Society of Maine met at intervals and in 1834 published the first number of a journal. But roads were poor and travel was hard. They finally ceased to meet in 1845.”
The Maine Medical Association was founded on April 28, 1853 when twenty-seven physicians met at the Tontine Hotel in Brunswick pursuant to a call “addressed to a portion of the medical profession throughout the state.” The objects of the Association were stated to be the “promotion of medical science and the regulation of the practice of medicine and surgery in this state.” Dr. James McKeen of Topsham was chosen as its chairman and Dr. John D. Lincoln, Secretary. Dr. Isaac Lincoln was chosen to serve as President until the first annual meeting, which was scheduled for June 9, 1853 in Augusta. In its first year, the membership consisted of 82 physicians.
On April 28, 2003, a commemorative plaque was placed on the location of the former Tontine Hotel, recognizing the twenty-seven physicians who had founded the Association exactly 150 years before.
At the first Annual Meeting held on June 9, 1853 at Winthrop Hall in Augusta, the Committee charged with drawing up a “Code of Ethics” announced that it was not ready to report so the matter was postponed for one year.
At the second Annual Meeting in 1854, the Code of Ethics of the American Medical Association was adopted and it has remained the Code to the present day, although it has been amended from time to time. The AMA had been organized in 1847. In 1855, the Legislature granted the Articles of Incorporation to the Association.
At the Annual Meeting on June 4, 1857, Drs. Gilman Davies, Alonzo Garcelon and J.C. Weston were appointed to a committee to procure a seal for the Association. Dr. Davies reported to the Sixth Annual Meeting on June 3, 1858, that having exhausted his own fund of ingenuity and following the wishes of his colleagues, he had consulted friends: “The ready brain of Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, of Boston, had suggested that which he had regarded as most eminently appropriate. The North Star and the mariner’s Compass, with the motto Natura Duce, Arte Adjuvante were the emblem and title decided upon.” The report was unanimously accepted.
The Early Years
The early years of the Association were focused on a number of issues, some of which continue to the present day. Homeopathy, empiricism and other alternatives to traditional western medicine were of grave concern and at the Second Annual Meeting in Portland, June 7, 1854 it was voted, “that the subject of Homeopathy is unworthy of the notice of this Association.” Several members were subsequently ignominiously drummed out of the Association for espousing Homeopathy and their ejection reported to the newspapers. Other areas of interest during this period included advocating for a Board of Health, a medical school and a hospital.
The need for a general hospital in Maine was a subject that interested many members of the Association. The Legislature granted a lot of land and some funds which were added to funds raised from other sources and Maine General Hospital (the origins of Maine Medical Center) was opened for patients in 1874.
“I am sure that no one of the older members can think of the Maine General Hospital and its relation to this Association without having rise before his mind’s eye the figure of that ideal gentleman and physician, the chairman for many years of the committee having its interest in charge- Dr. Gilman. How distinctly we can hear him say ‘For you must bear in mind, gentlemen, the fact that the Maine General Hospital is the child of the Maine Medical Association’ ” [Unknown source, from the Transactions of MMA]
From 1863, when transactions of the Association began to be published until 1903, there were 580 papers printed. Following is a rough classification of topics:
- Medicine and Pharmacology 193
- Surgery 117
- Ob-Gyn 76
- Ophthalmology 28
- Otology 7
- Diseases of Throat and Nose 4
- Miscellaneous 9
In the late 1800’s MMA advocated for a longer period of study for medical school, recommending a full four years of study. The Medical School of Maine in 1892 increased its requirements for graduation to three years and again in 1899 to four years study. The School had been founded at Bowdoin College in 1820 and operated for one hundred and one years until closing in June of 1921. In 1891, the faculty of the school made an appeal to the public for aid in moving the medical school to Portland. In this appeal, they wrote, “the medical school must be moved to Portland, where the Maine General Hospital, with its one hundred and twenty-five beds, the Greeley Hospital, the Maine Eye and Ear Infirmary, the United States Marine Hospital and Portland Dispensary are available.” In 1899, Maine General Hospital established a teaching institution for the Medical School of Maine. The first two years the student was at Bowdoin, while years three and four were at Maine General Hospital.
During its first 50 years, the Association played a leading role in the life of the State. Its members made an annual survey of the prevailing diseases in the State. They were responsible for the establishment of the State Board of Health. In addition to its role with respect to Maine General Hospital, members were also actively involved in the establishment of the first hospital for the care of the insane (what is now the Riverview Psychiatric Center). Members of the Association also attempted to guide the State legislature in matters of public health.
The Middle Years
By the beginning of the twentieth century, the majority of these aims had been attained and there came a time of rest from endeavor, a period when the voice of the Association was heard in public mainly in opposition to some proposed legislative actions which seemed unwise. In 1900, there were 1,206 registered physicians in Maine, 67 of whom were female. Most of the County Medical Societies were organized between 1900 and 1910. The Association during this period responded to these various challenges to medicine by encouraging better county society meetings and clinics, by the formation of a committee on Post Graduate Medical Education, traveling panel discussions and a fall clinical session. The Maine Medical Journal was established in 1910, with the first monthly journal being dated December, 1910. In 1938 the name of the publication was changed to The Journal of the Maine Medical Association.
Then came the 1930’s and 40’s with their amazing improvements in medicine and surgery, begetting an entirely new set of medical problems demanding attention.
In 1946, the President, Adam Leighton, M.D., asked for and received support for a dues increase to $35.00 in order to employ an executive secretary and appointed a Committee to Study and Report on voluntary health insurance plans. The beginnings of a contemporary Association can be seen during this period. An office was established at Maine General Hospital, the Constitution and Bylaws were upgraded, the Journal improved and a Committee on Ethics and Discipline established.
In 1949, a sister organization, the Women’s Auxiliary to MMA was established as a powerful ally. The auxiliary existed throughout most of the remainder of the twentieth century but met only sporadically in local groups after the late 1970’s.
1953 – 2014
At the Centennial Meeting in 1953, President Eugene H. Drake, MD, identified the three major issues facing the profession to be:
- Public Relations
- The Cost of Medical Care
- Rural Health
By 1950, the MMA had moved its office from the Maine Medical Center to 142 High Street, Portland, and in 1951 Esther Kennard was elected Secretary-Treasurer. She had worked for MMA since the 1930’s and would continue to work for MMA for over forty years.
Patricia Bergeron of Brunswick, hired by Dr. Hanley in 1962, also would serve the Association for over 40 years, retiring in 2002. She served as Secretary-Treasurer for many years and also performed a variety of other functions, including staffing the Executive Committee, the House of Delegates and managing the Annual Sessions.
In 1952, W. Mayo Payson, an attorney, was appointed as the first Executive Secretary. He resigned in 1955 and in May of that year, Dr. Daniel Hanley was appointed to the position and the title changed to Executive Director. As Dr. Hanley was the college physician at Bowdoin College, the MMA office was set up in the basement of the college’s Dudley Coe Infirmary. Thomas Foster, M.D., a third generation MMA President, continued as Editor of the Journal until 1956, when Dr. Hanley assumed that role as well.
Dr. Hanley ably served MMA for twenty-four years, retiring in 1979. His legacy includes the Maine Health Information Center, the Maine Medical Assessment Foundation (ceased existence in 2002), Medical Mutual Insurance Company of Maine, and the Maine Medical Education Foundation and a host of other projects and interests too numerous to mention. Despite these achievements, he is most fondly remembered for his kind manner and his mentoring to hundreds of young men and women interested in medicine. Dr. Hanley and his wife Maria also raised four children, all of whom are involved in medical careers.
In 1979, Frank O. Stred, was hired as Executive Director. Frank moved the office to 524 Western Ave, Augusta which was converted from a residence to an office. Frank retired in 1993 after serving the Association for 14 years. His legacy includes the Frank O. Stred Building, Association Park, the Maine Medical Education Trust and through prudent management, a substantial financial reserve. He was succeeded by Gordon Smith, who had previously served as the Association’s counsel for fourteen years.
In 1987, Mr. Stred’s considerable contributions were recognized with the naming of the new office building in Manchester as the Frank O. Stred Building. In 1995, Dr. Hanley’s legacy was similarly honored with the naming of the second office building in Association Park as the Daniel Hanley Building.
In 1982, there were 1,592 actively practicing physicians in Maine. Of these, 1,300 belonged to MMA. Seventy-five of these members were female.
At the time of its Sesquicentennial celebration (2003), MMA served over 2,400 members and employed a full time staff of fourteen, including two attorneys and two certified procedural coders through the Coding Center, a corporation jointly owned by MMA, the New Hampshire Medical Society and the Vermont Medical Association. The Coding Center was eventually conveyed to the regional accounting firm Baker Newman & Noyes and now does business as the Learning Center.
In September of 2003, the Association elected its first woman President, Maroulla Gleaton, M.D., an ophthalmologist practicing in Augusta. Dr. Gleaton continues to be very active in the Assocication, serving as a Delegate to the AMA Housr of Delegates.
From 2003 to the present time, the Association has had a very stable staff and has become a strong advocate at the State House and in the regulatory agencies. Membership at the end of 2014 is over 3,700 with over 2,700 active members. With a budget of $1.3 million and a staff of fifteen hard-working individuals, including three attorneys, MMA has become a modern, knowledge based organization, operating two non-profit foundations, managing nearly a dozen medical specialty organizations and a fully staffed Medical Professional Health Program serving physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, physician assistants and other health professionals. Offering a wide range of programs, educational resources, products and services to its members, the organization is well respected both in Maine and nationally.
But despite a professional staff, the Association still derives its strength from its volunteer members. Led by the officers and a Board of Directors of twenty-five dedicated individuals, the Maine Medical Association is well positioned to represent and assist its members for another one hundred and sixty years.
The Association has met at least annually since 1853. During the Second World War, the Office of Price Administration prohibited the Annual Conventions at various resort hotels for three years because of restrictions on fuel and travel. However, an annual business session was held each of these years.
MMA has had 166 Presidents (Lisa Ryan, D.O. is # 166) as two Presidents died in office. The first was the third President: Dr. Charles Millett of Lewiston, who was among the first elected members of the Association. His name was proposed for President at the Second Annual Meeting, in Portland, on June 7, 1854, and he was elected. The Third Annual Meeting was held in Belfast, June 6, 1855 and was chaired by Dr. H.H. Hill, Vice President. The permanent records of this meeting state, “Previous to entering upon the business of the Association, Dr. Hill made some appropriate remarks upon the decease of our late President, Dr. Millett, which sad event cast a gloom over the Association.”
The second was the one hundred fourth President; Robert W. Belknap, M.D., of Damariscotta, who was elected President Elect at the one hundred first (Centennial) Annual Session, June 22, 1953, at the Eastland Hotel in Portland. He was born in Damariscotta, scion of several original settlers of the area, September 1, 1890, attended Lincoln Academy, Bowdoin College, and Harvard Medical School. He died suddenly in his medical office in Damariscotta, August 11, 1954, after only two months as President.
In 1948, MMA dues were $35.00. This was increased to $55.00 in 1957, $100 in 1971, $125.00 in 1973, $225 in l976, $445 in l996 and $480 presently.
Prior to publishing the Journal of the Maine Medical Association in 1910, the records of the Association were written in longhand and these manuscripts consist of sixteen volumes, which are housed in the special collection department at the Bowdoin College Library. These early records are very interesting and enlightening to anyone interested in the history of medicine in Maine.
The largest known attendance of physicians at an Annual Meeting was 322 in 1946 at the Poland Spring Inn.
The Association gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the late George Bostwick, M.D., and Richard Kahn, M.D. and Rachel Blais of the Maine Medical Center Library Archives in the preparation of this brief history. We are also indebted to the late Eugene Drake, M.D., President in 1953 who provided much of the early history in his centennial address.