History of Maryland Medicine

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MedChi, The Maryland State Medical Society, was founded in January of 1799 as the Medical & Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland to prevent “quackery and pretenders to the medical arts.” One hundred representatives, four from each county in Maryland, gathered in Annapolis to petition the Maryland General Assembly to place some restrictions on who could practice medicine in Maryland.

There was no medical school in Maryland at that time, so in 1807, the Faculty as it was known then, founded what is now the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine, becoming its first faculty member. Additionally, the Faculty was granted permission by the Legislature to award Licentiate of Medicine, which granted all powers of a college diploma. Most of the recipients had learned their craft through apprenticeships with trained physicians.

Throughout the 1800s, the Faculty continued to recruit members, codify legislation promoting the medical profession, help establish specialty medical schools, including the first dental school in America in 1839, publish a medical journal, and enlarge the medical library, which would eventually number more than 65,000 volumes.

After buying a property on Hamilton Terrace in Baltimore in 1890, the Faculty finally thought they had found their forever home. Dr. William Osler became President of the Faculty in 1896 and made the fortuitous decision to hire a permanent librarian, Miss Marcia C. Noyes. Osler, a book aficionado, began the process of expanding and cataloging the library and hosting Book & Journal Club Meetings. Dr. Osler’s charisma and intense charm, helped the membership rolls increase dramatically, and after a decade-and-a-half, the realization that they’d outgrown their home became clear to everyone.

In 1909, a purpose-built headquarters building, with space for large and small meetings, a reading room, and most significantly, a four-story stacks library, was dedicated. Dr. Osler, who was now living in England, returned to Baltimore to dedicate the building, and give a significant lecture, entitled “The Old and New.” Miss Noyes became the Secretary of the Faculty, and continued to grow the membership, and expand the library until it was one of the foremost medical libraries in the country and a model for American medical societies. She eventually worked (and lived!) at the Faculty for 50 years.

In the 1970s, MedChi, as it was now known, purchased the former school building adjacent to the headquarters, along with the gymnasium behind it, for the grand sum of one dollar! After fundraising for several years, the two buildings were connected and renovated for use as offices and meeting space. The gymnasium became the MedChi Insurance Agency, and an additional adjacent property is used for the Physician Health Program.

With the advent of digitization, our library is no longer used by members, but it’s still mostly intact. Much of our archive collection remains available for research either here on-site, or at the nearby Maryland Historical Society. Our MedChi Archives blog explores topics as diverse as things that we find in the stacks, to the architectural details on our buildings. Additionally, there are lists of the portraits in our collection, along with details of each sitter; all of our Presidents through the decades; speakers at the Hunt History of Medicine lectures over the years, and a history of our building which was home to School #49.

As Dr. Albert Chatard, a long-time member of the Faculty, wrote, “Since 1799, we have worked to create an atmosphere both effective and genial, so that members who come to the building feel that interesting and important things are going on under its roof.”

The Center for a Healthy Maryland and MedChi, The Maryland State Medical Society still work to make sure our members know that interesting and important things happen here.