Better Health Through Advocacy
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In April of 1821, what is now Erie County was carved out of territory then designated as Niagara County. This entitled the new county of Erie to establish within in boundaries a County Medical Society pursuant to an act of the New York State Legislature in 1806 "to Incorporate Medical Societies for the Purpose of Regulating the Practice of Physic and Surgery in this State."
The Medical Society of the County of Erie was founded in September of 1821. Under the law of the day, all physicians in New York were required to belong to their local county medical society. The law also gave Medical Societies the legal authority, in the words of Samuel Matthieu, author of The Medical Profession Of Erie County, New York, to serve as "judges of the fitness of those desirous of engaging in practice, the censors of morals and character of its own members, also enabling and constraining this body to enforce the laws of the State against illegal practitioners."
The twenty-four charter members of the Medical Society of the County of Erie met on September 21, 1821, in the home of R.M. Pomeroy at Main and Seneca Streets -- once the site of the Medical Society offices -- in the village of Buffalo and elected Cyrenius Chapin, M.D., a veteran of the War of 1812, as the Society's first president. Among the other charter members was Ebenezer Johnson, M.D., who became the first mayor of the City of Buffalo. At present there are over 1,500 physicians and medical students in the Medical Society of the County of Erie.
Today, the primary purposes of the Medical Society of the County of Erie are not that much different from what they were at its founding. The early mission of the Medical Society of the County of Erie was to elevate the clinical, educational, and ethical standards of the medical profession; today the Medical Society has as its primary purposes maintaining the ethical standards in the physician community, educating the public on health matters, and helping to ensure the availability of high quality health care for the citizens of Erie County.
Over the years the Medical Society of the County of Erie has been involved in all the major health care issues of the day. It was instrumental in the development of the "Blue" plans in Western New York during the early days of health insurance. The Society, through its many committees, did its share during the First and Second World Wars, and as recently as the Gulf War, Erie County members devoted their skills in service to their Country. The Medical Society has been actively involved in the legislative and regulatory process from its very beginning. It has lent its voice to the national debate over the years regarding "Socialized Medicine", the evolution of Medicare and Medicaid, and former President Clinton's Health Plan. The Society is addressed the changing health care environment of the 2000s characterized by the emergence of managed care. Throughout all the discussions on these issues affecting the profession of Medicine, the Medical Society has striven to serve as an advocate for the patient and the voice of reason in the very complex and often heated debates.
Throughout its 198-year history, the Medical Society of the County of Erie has provided assistance and guidance in the community in various areas affecting health care and medical services. Physician leaders of the Medical Society have served in many capacities to help improve the quality of life on the Niagara Frontier. From the founding of the early hospitals in the 1800s and the establishment of the University Medical School, through the development of public health projects at the turn of the century and the early 1900s, in the coordination of emergency health services and regional health planning, to the current mergers of area health systems, the Medical Society leadership has played and continues to play a key role in the history and the future of Medicine in Erie County.