History of the Ohio State Medical Association

The Early Years

Most pioneer physicians were not actually doctors of medicine, but, rather, learned their art through apprenticeship. After 1830, medical schools sprang up all over the western country training 100 to 200 physicians each session. Soon jealousies arose between those who had medical degrees and those who did not. Years of attempts to protect the public from charlatans, quacks and poorly trained physicians failed and by 1833, the state stopped trying to regulate the practice of the healing arts. Schools were not elevating standards even though the professors felt they should. Too many physicians in practice never attended a medical school and had not read more than three or four texts.

In 1846, confronted with this crisis, a small group of physicians who held degrees from recognized medical schools met to form an organization to “foster legislation and activities which would safeguard the interests of the public against knavery and ignorance and elevate the standards of the medical profession.” The Ohio State Medical Society (later named the Ohio State Medical Association) was organized in a parlor of the old Neil House in Columbus, Ohio, on a Thursday evening, May 14, 1846. Dr. George W. Boerstler of Lancaster presided and became the society’s first president. A Board of Censors was appointed and 25 physicians were admitted to the charter membership. In February 1848, the Ohio Legislature granted a charter in which the newly formed organization was made “a body corporate and politic by the name of the ‘Ohio State Medical Society.’”

The society adopted a constitution and code of bylaws on May 16, 1848, which emphasized the development of constituent societies. The documents required those wanting to become auxiliary societies to submit a copy of their constitution and bylaws along with a list of their members. Upon admission the president and secretary would be delegates, and one added delegate would be allowed for each 10 members from that county. By 1850, there were 11 auxiliary societies. The state society was still recognizing district societies in its constitution as late as 1891. What seemed to be lethargy on the part of the county societies might actually have been that they felt they were being upstaged by the district societies, which were predecessors of the county organizations.

The struggle among county, district and the state society continued until May 28, 1902, when the Ohio State Medical Society changed its name to the Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA). The Constitution was changed to conform with Article III of the Constitution of the American Medical Association, which read: “Component societies shall consist of those county medical societies which hold charters from this Association.” This provision marked the downfall of district societies as components of the society. A House of Delegates was created with representatives from each county medical society. The component county societies were divided into districts, and one representative was elected by the House from each district to serve on the Council which was, and is today, the governing body of the association.