AN EARLY MEDICAL SOCIETY (January 10/03)

“According to notice, a meeting of physicians of Kings County was held in the Court House at Kentville on Saturday the 21st. inst. to organize a Medical Society. The following were in attendance viz. Drs. Brown, C. C. Hamilton, McLatchy, Dodge, Balcom, Shaw, Fitch, Payzant, Sheffield, C. W. F. Hamilton, Dennison, Struthers, Dickey and Outhet.”

This first meeting of the Kings County Medical Society was held in December, 1867; readers will recognise among the participants names of families long associated with this region, some of which either came from Planter stock or have roots going back a century and more. Dr. C. C. Hamilton is mentioned in Eaton’s Kings County history as a pioneer in the formation of an early agricultural society, for example; Eaton refers to the Den(n)ison family, and he calls its founder one of “the most important of the Kings County grantees.”

The Kings Medical Society existed until 1907 when it merged with a similar body in Annapolis County. The minutes of the inaugural meeting of the Society, recorded in a ledger now on file at the Kings County Museum, states the reasons for forming this body. The first resolution passed by the Society – we’d probably call it a mission statement today – states its main object to be “the advancement of medical science,” and the examination of all subjects pertaining to the medical profession. It is the “bounden right of every physician to do his utmost to advance the interests of medical science,” the new Society states in its first resolution.

The Society was also concerned with protecting the rights of members of the medical profession. Why this would be an issue is puzzling but there must have been some concern since the “protection of the rights of its members” is the third stated aim of the Society.

Article eight of the Society’s constitution offers a clue to its concern about physician rights. This article states that a “managing committee shall examine the qualifications of all new candidates for membership (and) shall adjudicate upon all disputed questions of a professional nature.”

We can assume from this article that as well as aiming to advancing medical science, the Society was set up to police itself and to deal with false claims made by the purveyors of patent medicines. Read any newspaper from the period the Society was formed and you’ll find advertisements on every page claiming miraculous cures for every illness known to man simply by taking a pill or slathering the body with salves and liniments

A clue to the fact that the medical profession was organising to fight folk medicine quackery and general ignorance about bodily ills is found early on in the Society minutes. Only a few months after it was formed, Society members passed a motion that one of its members, Dr. Borden, “read a Public Lecture on Patent Medicines at the next meeting.”

Section five of the Society’s mission statement comes to the point on this, reading in part that members will “endeavor by all possible means to promote harmony in the profession and to suppress the baneful influence of quackery.”

As noted, the Society merged in 1907 with a similar group in Annapolis County, becoming the Annapolis and Kings Medical Society. This was followed by the Valley Medical Society which existed from 1910 into the 1920s.

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