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Past Society president also served as first dean of merged Milwaukee medical school


Like his counterpart Charles Bardeen, MD, in Madison, Wisconsin Medical Society past president Louis F. Jermain, MD, helped to advance medical education in Milwaukee.

In the late 19th Century, two medical schools were established in Milwaukee within a year of each other. The Wisconsin College of Physicians and Surgeons (1893) and the Milwaukee Medical College (1894) were created as proprietary institutions, where a school’s profits went directly to its shareholders. However, both schools struggled. An unfavorable review by the 1910 Flexner Report, followed by a class “C” rating from the American Medical Association’s Council of Medical Education a couple of years after that, signaled the schools’ almost-certain collapse.

According to a 2004 WMJ article authored by J.M. Cerletty, MD, this rating was especially troubling for Wisconsin’s Medical Examining Board, as a number of states neighboring Wisconsin during that time refused to recognize any colleges classified with a “C” rating.

The only way that both schools could survive was if they merged into one school. Doctor Jermain was among the leaders in this effort, and in 1913, the Marquette University School of Medicine was officially organized. Doctor Jermain, who was a professor at the Wisconsin College of Physicians and Surgeons from 1894 to 1912, was named the new medical school’s first dean. The school also moved into the same building that had originally housed the former Wisconsin College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Doctor Jermain was appointed dean during “the greatest upheaval education, in any field, has known,” according to a 1935 WMJ editorial. But just two years later in 1915, the revamped School of Medicine at Marquette had received an “A” rating from the AMA’s Council of Medical Education. By 1918, 76 students were enrolled. And although the school was on solid footing academically, it was struggling to stay afloat financially.

According to two 2004 WMJ articles authored by Dr. Cerletty and Norman Engbring, MD, in 1917, financial help for the medical school arrived just in time. The Carnegie Foundation offered the school a matching gift of almost $340,000 toward a $1 million endowment, and by 1919, the remainder of the endowment was raised through a major fund drive.

Doctor Jermain eventually stepped down as dean in 1926, but he retained the title of “Dean Emeritus” until his death in 1935.

In 1967, the medical school split from Marquette University, becoming an independent institution. It was renamed the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) in 1970. Joseph E. Kerchner, MD, is the current dean and executive vice president at MCW. And today, there are 845 students enrolled at campuses in Milwaukee, Green Bay and Wausau.

Test your knowledge!

When did the Society change its name from the “State Medical Society of Wisconsin” to the Wisconsin Medical Society? If you know the answer or would like to take a guess, e-mail Jennifer Wieman by noon Wednesday, July 13. Good luck!

The correct answer to last week’s question is that just 159 members have held the office of Society president in 175 years. The reason for this discrepancy is the fact that six early Society presidents served a multiple of terms: Bushnell B. Cary, MD, John B. Dousman, MD, Alfred L. Castleman, MD, Harmon van Dusen, MD, Clark G. Pease, MD, and Ezra S. Carr, MD. So while Barbara Hummel, MD, is the Society’s 165th president, she is in fact only the 159th member to become president.

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