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Post WWI Society publishes special ‘lay issues’ of WMJ


The 1920s was a period of much growth for the Wisconsin Medical Society. With almost 2,000 members in 1924, membership was at an all-time high (in spite of an increase in dues from $4 to $10 after 1922) and Executive Secretary George Crownhart, with just a year under his belt, was helping put the Society solidly in the black. For the first time in the organization’s history, the 1923 Annual Meeting generated a small profit of $30.33—and WMJ, through its increased advertising, had become nearly self-supporting.


From 1924-1926, the Society published special “lay issues” of WMJ as part of a public health education program.

It was also during this time that the Society began a comprehensive public health education program, which included special “lay issues” of WMJ. These were published annually from 1924 to 1926 and aimed to foster better understanding of disease prevention for the populace and garner greater cooperation between physicians and the public to solve “the basic problems of health and disease.”

The first lay issue was published in April 1924, and 5,000 copies were distributed to interested citizens throughout the state.

Articles were written by Society members, physicians from outside Wisconsin and non-physicians. Topics included early cancer detection, proper nutrition to combat disease and deformity, childbirth mortality and the value of vaccinations to prevent disease. According to H.M. Guilford, MD, the director of communicable diseases at the State Board of Health who authored the vaccination article, Milwaukee had 1,313 reported cases of smallpox in 1887, 385 of which proved to be fatal. Thirty-six years later, Milwaukee had 69 cases of smallpox with no fatalities.

The second annual issue in 1925 sported a colorful new cover with the tagline “The First Wealth is Health.” Distribution increased to more than 6,000 and issues were going to the general public, high school libraries, civic organizations and state and county officers. Articles ranged from an expose on diploma mills to how the state had “reduced the death toll from communicable diseases.” The tagline of the 1926 issue was “Prevention is better than cure—and far, far cheaper.” Some of the articles in the third issue were “The Use and Abuse of Drugs,” “The Growth and Value of Medical Examinations,” and “The Educational Treatment of Mental Defectives in Wisconsin.”

1926 was the last year the Society published a lay issue, despite its growth and apparent success. So far, research has yielded no reason as to why it stopped.

Test your knowledge!
From what Society office did Rock Sleyster, MD, step down right before he served as president in 1923-1924? If you know the answer or would like to take a guess, e-mail Jennifer Wieman by noon, Wednesday, June 8.

Thomas Zoch, MD, correctly answered last week’s question: The original name of the Society’s highest honor, the Director’s Award, was first known as The Council Award when it was first established in 1928. John M. Dodd, MD, of Ashland and C.A. Harper, MD, of Madison were the first two recipients of the award in 1930.

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