As I mentioned, I recorded a segment for the Maryland Humanities Council a few weeks ago, and it aired last week. You can click here to hear the piece. It doesn’t sound like me, though!
Just so you don’t have to listen to the whole piece, here’s the text:
It was 217 years ago this week that a group of physicians from every county in Maryland met in Annapolis. They petitioned the legislature to establish a medical society to prevent the citizens from risking their lives at the hands of pretenders to the healing art. Thus was born The Medical & Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland – chirurgical coming from the Latin word for surgical. Today, the Faculty is known as MedChi, The Maryland State Medical Society.
From its earliest days, MedChi was located in Baltimore. Members met to share and disseminate the latest medical information, much of which came from Europe. And because there was no medical school in Maryland at that time, in 1807 members of MedChi created what is now the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine, and acted as the faculty of the school.
Education is a big part of MedChi. In the 1800’s, orators selected from the membership gave lengthy lectures on important medical topics. In 1849, a medical library was established, with subscriptions to bulletins and journals from specialty, state and international medical societies available for the members to read.
In the mid-1800’s, MedChi began publishing a medical journal, first weekly and eventually monthly. The journals were filled with the most current medical information, as well as physicians’ comings and goings, and were eagerly anticipated by the membership. A medical journal, now titled Maryland Medicine, is still published today, and the orations are now lunch-and-learn meetings, or on-line seminars.
In the 1880’s, when the famed Dr. William Osler arrived in Baltimore to work at the new Johns Hopkins Hospital, he quickly became a member of MedChi and took great interest in the library of 7,000 volumes, many of those outdated. He hired a young librarian, Miss Marcia Noyes, who worked at MedChi for 50 years, and lived in the headquarters building from the time it was built until her death in 1946.
Over the years, MedChi’s library grew to encompass more than 55,000 volumes, housed in the four-story cast-iron stacks library. From tiny books, hand-printed in the 1600’s, to huge beautifully engraved anatomical guides, the library provides a unique look at medicine through the ages.
MedChi’s collection of portraits, painted by everyone from Rembrandt Peale to Stanislav Rembsky, traces the leadership of the organization. Our archives are extensive. Scraps of paper record votes at a meeting in 1830. Elaborate bills and receipts track long-gone merchants of Baltimore. Membership rolls, handwritten in flowing and perfect penmanship, reflect the growing profession. This ephemera coalesces to bring the history of medicine in Maryland to life.
MedChi’s 1909 building, just across the street from the Meyerhoff, retains much of its original design in the patterned brick work on the façade, beautiful mosaic floors, a graceful marble and iron staircase and the elaborate festooned woodwork.
In addition to the history that inhabits MedChi, it’s also home to a resident ghost – our former librarian, Marcia Crocker Noyes. MedChi was her life.