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1903: Society adopts AMA-recommended constitution


It’s no coincidence that the policy-making bodies of the Wisconsin Medical Society and the American Medical Association (AMA) are both “House of Delegates.” When the AMA reorganized in 1901, it asked state medical societies to adopt a uniform constitution and bylaws in order to create a federation that would not only increase membership, but better secure necessary legislation and advance the profession.

Twenty-two state medical societies had already adopted the new AMA-recommended constitution recommended by the AMA when the Society followed suit at its Annual Meeting in June 1903. However, the new House of Delegates wouldn’t convene for another year, so the Society appointed a provisional council of 10 members to act in its place until then.

Besides the new parliamentary structure, the new constitution allowed for only one “component” county medical society per county chartered by the state society. If there was more than one county medical society in a particular county, “friendly overtures” would be made for the extra society to disband. If unification didn’t happen, the state society would step in to create a new county medical society.

The Society’s Council (renamed the Board of Directors in 1981) also came into existence during the 1903 reorganization. Twelve councilors represented the 12 districts that existed at that time.

The new constitution also rewrote the rules for membership, defining membership in a state or county medical society as a right, not a privilege. Physicians joined the medical society of the county where they resided, which then automatically made them members of the state society.

Another change involved representation at the AMA. Only the state society could send delegates to vote at the AMA’s House of Delegates; county-level representation was no longer recognized.

In 1981, the Society’s House of Delegates went a step further, eliminating the unified membership requirement between the Society and the AMA. From that point on, AMA membership was optional rather than required for physicians who wished to be members of their county and state societies.

Test your knowledge

What was the name of the first tuberculosis sanitarium in Wisconsin, opened in 1903 by W.B. Hopkins, MD? If you know the answer or would like to take a guess, Jennifer Wieman by noon Wednesday, April 27. Good luck!

Congratulations to Thomas Zoch, MD, who correctly answered last week’s question. Society member Amy Louise Hunter-Wilson, MD, wrote the article on infant and maternal mortality rates that was published in the November 1940 issue of WMJ and was reprinted as a “Looking Back” column in the October 2015 issue of WMJ. Doctor Hunter-Wilson served as the state’s director of maternal and child health for more than 25 years, and her estate endowed a Wisconsin Medical Society Foundation scholarship in her name.

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