History of the Ouachita Parish Medical Society

By: Robert Hendrick, MD and Sameer Wadhwa

In this issue we have an article on the history of the Ouachita Parish Medical Society. It is good to look back at times to learn about where we came from and how we got here. In the late nineteenth century, communication transportation was not what it is today. Physicians were isolated and very busy with their practices. They needed a forum where they could share ideas and experiences treating patients. As time went by the societies also became advocates for changes that would improve medical care. They became leaders in public health issues and actually, in conjunction with the American Medical Association, were a driving force behind the creation of the Blue Cross systems in the 1940’s to provide more opportunities for patients to obtain health insurance. In the past few decades, the societies evolved to additionally serve as physician advocates in the legislative process as the government has become more involved in the health care arena. They provide an avenue for physicians to speak as one voice for their patients and their practices benefits. Finally, the medical auxiliaries associated with the societies provided an opportunity for physician spouses to participate in activities that could improve their communities.

It wasn’t until 1884 when Ouachita organized the first district medical society – the Fifth.

With the assistance of Dr. A.W. Jones, vice president of the State Society for the Fifth District organized Ouachita Parish Medical Society in 1894. Ouachita Medical Society continued to be active thereafter except for a short interval in the early twentieth century. The society met monthly. The State Society affiliated with Ouachita in 1896. For a brief period from 1900-1903, Ouachita was inactive until it reorganized under the new constitution of the State Society and it became chartered on Nov. 24, 1903. In those days, dues were a whopping $1.00 a year and the society met the second Friday of each month.

Interestingly enough, physicians from surrounding parishes were also active members in Ouachita. In 1915, Ouachita took the lead in organizing a district society with other parishes of the district.

The twenties were busy years for Ouachita Parish Medical Society. Several of its members made a special study of the intravenous administration of quinine in the treatment of certain types of malaria. As a result of their studies, quinine in ampoule form was put on the market by pharmaceutical companies.

During WWII, while most parish societies were inactive, Ouachita still held its meeting and tried to recruit physicians from those inactive districts to the meetings. This plan turned out to be a success because in 1955, eight parishes did not have medical societies and six unorganized parishes had physicians enrolled in OPMS from: Caldwell, Concordia, East Carroll, Madison, Richland, and Tensas. The meetings typically consisted of a scientific program with case presentations and speakers as well as a yearly banquet and an election for the new officers.

Like Medicine, the Ouachita Medical Society continues to evolve and advance. We have a strong history and an even brighter future.