Skip Navigation Bar
National Intitutes of Health
This finding aids platform will be replaced in Fall 2022. Please explore the new platform Beta soft release by visiting

Medical Society of the District of Columbia Records 1833-1984
full text File Size: 89 K bytes | Add this to my bookbag


Biographical/Historical Note

In 1817, a group of physicians established the Medical Society of the District of Columbia (MSDC), a professional organization created to disseminate medical and scientific information to its members as well as to protect physicians and the public from "medical charlatans" and "quacks." An Act of Congress officially chartered the MSDC in 1819. The society was re-chartered in 1838 and again in 1924. Over the course of the MSDC's existence, membership of the society was comprised of licensed physicians, medical residents, and medical students in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

In addition to providing scientific programs and essay discussions for its members, the MSDC also licensed physicians who sought to practice in the District of Columbia through its Board of Examiners. After its amalgamation with the Medical Association of the District of Columbia in 1911, the MSDC began creating and regulating fee schedules for medical services. By the mid-twentieth century, the MSDC also organized annual scientific assemblies, coordinated other educational events for its members, and provided services such as the Medical Bureau telephone service for physicians.

The MSDC also acted to promote public health in the District of Columbia. Throughout the nineteenth century, the MSDC focused on the prevention of the spread of diseases like small pox and cholera around the city through vaccinations and improvements to the city’s water supply. In the twentieth century, the MSDC advocated for better regulation of nursing homes, helped vaccinate against polio, promoted maternal welfare and mental health, helped prevent the spread of venereal disease, and studied cancer and its mortality rate, among many other public health activities.

During World War II, the MSDC provided physician volunteers to examine draftees, assisted the government in procuring physicians for the military, and developed an Emergency Medical Service for defense on the home front. The MSDC was also involved in an early controversy about prepaid group health insurance, notably facing a lawsuit which was eventually appealed to the Supreme Court over the Society’s obstruction of the city's Group Health Insurance, Inc. which the courts determined violated the Sherman Act.

Over the course of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the MSDC increasingly focused on legislative advocacy against onerous regulations on behalf of its members. The Society provided physicians with practice management consultation, updated members on legislative and regulatory issues, and continued to provide opportunities for educational development and networking for its members.