The Spokane County Medical Society (SCMS) was established in 1885 by a military physician, Cyrus K. Merriam stationed at Fort Spokane. He had been assigned to the eastern area of the Washington Territory. By the turn of the century, Spokane’s population was 36,000 citizens and Sacred Heart, Deaconess and St. Lukes hospitals were well established.
During the first decade of the century, a physician (and member of the Society) was elected Mayor – Dr. Patrick S. Byrne. Throughout the next fifty years, the physicians of SCMS were involved in many civic, public health, and professional activities. By the end of WWII, SCMS established a separate office and employed staff and had created another sister non-profit, the Spokane Medical Library. In 1985, SCMS proudly celebrated its centennial year. In 1997, SCMS created another sister non-profit, the Spokane County Medical Society Foundation (SCMSF), in an effort to work on projects that would improve the health of our community and effect positive change for physicians.
The Importance of Charity Care & Volunteerism
Charity care has always been an inherent part of medical practice and prior to the establishment of local, state, and federal programs, patients relied on physician compassion when there was no money to pay for health care. During the Depression, when the work and income of nearly all Spokane citizens fell to historically low levels, physicians in Spokane provided all needed health care for anyone in need for free, through a program sponsored by SCMS.
During early post war decades, SCMS established a regular neighborhood outpatient clinic serving those who would otherwise have no access to medical care. This was a clinic jointly financed by the Medical Service Bureau and SCMS - approximately sixty thousand dollars yearly! Another community project under-taken was an effort to administer the newly discovered and approved Salk vaccine. SCMS physicians volunteered their Sundays for one year to immunize Spokane children. A residue of $100,000 of unused funds, donated by a pharmaceutical company for this project was turned over to Deaconess Hospital for the creation of the Poison Center, which has enjoyed a permanent and very successful life. At this time, we also started our County EMS system.
- January 8, 1903 - "A case of scarlatina", Medical Sentinel. A regular meeting of the Spokane County Medical Society was held on January 8 1903. After the routine of business had been finished Dr. WW Potter brought up the matter of new quarantine regulations. Dr. Potter stated that recently he had a very mild case of scarlatina under his supervision. On the recovery of the patient he stated that he reported the case to the Health Department as fully cured but he claimed Dr Newman's deputy refused to lift the quarantine because the patient had not been in quarantine a certain length of time.
- December 9, 1936 - "Christmas Parties, Holiday Guests...", Spokesman-Review. Many of the various women's clubs and different groups are foregoing their regular meetings of serious portent to enjoy affairs of a more social nature. Among them the women's auxiliary to the Spokane County Medical society...
- December 27, 1939 - "Medical Library Physicians Pride", Spokane Daily Chronicle. If there Is any one thing members of the Spokane County Medical Society are more proud of than their profession, it is their medical library in the Paulson medical-dental building.
- May 13, 1946 - "Vets' Medical Program Near", Spokane Daily Chronicle. The Spokane County Medical society was one of the first medical groups in the state to propose the program to provide care for the growing number of veterans returning urning to to Spokane and other parts Spokane a of the state.
- July 15, 1951 - "Group 'Umpires' Doctors' Bills", The Spokesman Review. Apparently, only a comparatively few persons know about the grievance committee of the Spokane County Medical society. It exists, though, and is comprised of six doctors who are chosen because of their personal integrity, sense of fairness and clinical experience.
- June 23, 1953 - "Swimming Not Listed as Cause of Polio", Spokane Daily Chronicle. The ol' swimmin' hole has been removed from the list of suspected causes of polio.
- January 3, 1968 - "Modern Medical Techniques Being Used Here", Spokane Daily Chronicle.
- February 25, 1970 - "Chairman is 'Granddaddy" of Committees", Spokane Daily Chronicle. As president of the Spokane County Medical Society, Dr. Robert W. Burroughs might be described as the "granddaddy" of committee chairmen.
- May 22, 1980 - "Wear wet masks", The Spokesman-Review. The Spokane County Medical Society is now recommending persons wear wet masks over their nose and mouth to protect from potential health risks of inhaling invisible particles of Mount St. Helens volcanic ash.