Home
Our History
 

The Metro Omaha Medical Society began in 1866 serving the physicians in Douglas County.  We currently serve doctors and the general population in the metro Omaha area. 

Our office provides information on: legislative contacts, physician referrals, community outreach programs, networking, health care accessibility for the uninsured and many other programs.


Metro Omaha Medical Society also:

  • is affiliated with the Nebraska Credentials Verification Organization to verify provider credentials
  • sponsors Community Internship program for communication between physicians and the publi

Service to the Omaha community includes participation in:

  • The Domestic Violence Coordinating Council
  • The Immunization Task Force
  • Mental Health Task Force
  • Our Health Community Partnership


EARLY HISTORY OF
METRO OMAHA MEDICAL SOCIETY

by Mary Seeley

During the early years of Nebraska’s history,  a number of short-lived attempts were made to organize a medical society in Omaha. The first organization was the "Nebraska Medical Society" incorporated in March 1855. The object of this society was to "examine and determine the quality and purity of drugs and medicine offered for sale in the territory". Its membership included nine physicians from the surrounding areas, but plans did not materialize and the organization ceased to exist.

Two or three years later, local practitioners convened for the purpose of adopting a schedule of fees. Nothing was accomplished, however, and it was not until after the close of the Civil War that a formal organization was established.

Then due to an influx of doctors, the practice of medicine began to take shape. Some of the newcomers had served as medics in the army; others were fresh from college with their only experience "afforded by the dissecting room and clinics."

Realizing the necessity of regulations for practice, the physicians of Omaha met June 14, 1866 and drafted a constitution. Four committees were established: Library, Intelligence, Meteorology and Disease. The duties of the Meteorological Committee were to keep a regular series of observations noticing the temperature and currents of air, the variations of the barometer, the quantity of rain fallen, the progress of vegetation, and other circumstances connected with the climate which may have an influence on our diseases.

What meteorology might have done for medicine remained privileged information as the committees never made the reports provided for in the constitution. It was mentioned, however, that the Smithsonian Institute in Washington had promised to send them a rain gauge which, according to the records was never received.

In 1871 a very comprehensive "fee bill" was adopted.

OMAHA MEDICAL SOCIETY FEE BILL 1871

Whereas, The Omaha Medical Society feeling the importance of a perfect uniformity in the prices for professional services, in order to avoid litigation and other difficulties, deem it important and proper that there should be a mutual understanding upon the subject:

Therefore, we, the members of said society do solemnly agree that we will hereafter be governed by the following bill of charges for professional services, as far as it is practicable:

Office prescription and advice, (ordinary)    1.00-3.00
For ordinary visit within the city limits         3.00
Visit to country, per mile, additional           1.00
Night visit to country, per mile additional    2.00
Visit to Steamboat on Missouri River         5.00
Night visit to Steamboat                           7.00
Night visit from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. within city 5.00

Consultation within city                                             6.00
Consultation within city at night                               10.00
Subsequent joint attendance with attending Physician 3.00

Obstetrical fee, ordinary case of not over six hours 20.00
For each hour’s attendance over six hours              1.00
Cases requiring turning or forceps (additional)       20.00-30.00
Embryotomy (additional)                                     25.00-50.00
Caesarian section (additional)                            50.00-100.00
For delivering retained Placenta                            10.00

Written opinion or advice               10.00
Services or opinion involving questions of law or attendance at court 15.00
Opinion upon life insurance             5.00

Signing medical certificate in case of insanity 10.00
Venesection                                                 5.00
Cupping or leaching, each application              3.00
Vaccination, first case                                    3.00
Each additional case at same time and place   1.00
Gonorrhea, first prescription, in advance         10.00
Stricture operation, in advance            25.00-100.00
Syphillis, first prescription, in advance            20.00
Cases of sudden poisoning                 10.00-100.00

Each introduction of catheter or bougie            5.00
Each introduction of seton or issue                  5.00

Physical examination of chest or uterus  5.00-10.00
Administration of Anaesthetics               5.00-10.00
Post-mortem examinations                   25.00-50.00
Chemico-legal post-mortem examinations     100.00

Additional charges may be discretionally made for night traveling in inclement weather, or over bad roads; also, in cases involving risk to the Physicians, as in infectious, or contagious diseases; in the examination of putrid subjects, and especially in the following diseases: Malignant Cholera, Malignant Ersipelas, Malignant Puerperal Fever, Malignant Scarlatina, Malignant Rubeola, etc.

In Variola and Varioloid, double ordinary charges.

Extra fee for advice in cases involving extreme solicitude, responsibility, attention
and skill, as in the following:
Cases of Uterine or other Hemorrhage dangerous to life 10.00-50.00
Cases of threatened abortion                                       10.00-30.00
Acute of Chronic Ophthalmia, threatening loss of vision 10.00-50.00
Cases of Malignant disease of Cancer, etc.                  10.00-50.00
Cases of Chronic Cutaneous diseases                         10.00-50.00
Cases of Chronic Constitutional diseases, as Scrofula,
Syphillis, etc.                                                          20.00-100.00

For reduction of Fractures                                          20.00-100.00
For reduction of Luxations                                             5.00-20.00
For reduction of Hernia by Taxis                                   15.00-50.00
For reduction of Prolapsed Anus or Uterus                    10.00-25.00
For removing stone from bladder                               100.00-500.00
For amputation of arm or forearm                                  25.00-50.00
For amputation at shoulder joint                                 50.00-100.00
For amputation at hip joint                                        100.00-200.00
For amputation of thigh                                              50.00-150.00
For amputation of leg or foot                                        25.00-75.00
For amputation of finger or toe                                       5.00-20.00

Extirpation of large and complicated tumors                25.00-200.00
Extirpation of other tumors                                          10.00-30.00
Extirpation of Mamma                                               25.00-100.00
Extirpation of Testicles                                              25.00-100.00
Extirpation of Tonsils                                                  10.00-25.00
Extirpation of Uvula                                                      5.00-10.00

For Scarification of the Gums                                         2.00-5.00
For Scarification of the Tonsils                                      5.00-10.00
For Scarification of the Conjunctiva                                  3.00-5.00
For Dividing Fraenum Linger                                           3.00-5.00
For Cauterization of the Faces, Larynx, etc.                   5.00-10.00

Operation for Cataract                                               50.00-200.00
Operation for Strabismus                                           50.00-100.00
Operation for Ligature of Arteries                                25.00-200.00
Operation for Subclavian Iliac, Carotid
and Femoral Aneurysm                                           100.00-500.00
Operation for Strangulated Hernia                             100.00-500.00
Operation for Fistula Lachrymalis                                 25.00-75.00
Operation for Fistula in No                                           25.00-75.00
Operation for Hemorrhoids                                           20.00-50.00
Operation for Imperforate Anus                                   50.00-150.00
Operation for Imperforate Urethra                                50.00-200.00
Operation of Tapping Hydrocele                                    10.00-20.00

Operation for Phymosis and Paraphymosis                   20.00-30.00
Operation for Tapping in Empyema                              20.00-60.00
Operation for Tapping in Ascites                                   20.00-50.00
Operation for Club Foot, single                                     25.00-75.00
Operation for Club Foot, double                                  50.00-150.00
Operation for Hare Lip                                                25.00-100.00
Operation for Cleft Palate                                           75.00-150.00
Operation for Trepanning                                            50.00-100.00

Operation for Vesicle-Vaginal Fistula                          50.00-100.00
Operation for Recto-Vaginal Fistula                            50.00-100.00
Operation for Lacerated Perineum                                25.00-75.00
Operation for Stricture Esophagus Rectum, etc.          25.00-100.00
Operation for removal of Sequester                             20.00-100.00
Operation for removal of Inferior Maxillary                   100.00-150.00
Operation for removal of Superior Maxillary                 200.00-500.00
Plastic Operations                                                     50.00-200.00

For opening Abscesses                                                2.00-50.00
For Tracheotomy                                                      50.00-100.00
For puncture of the Bladder                                        25.00-100.00
Excision of Joints                                                      25.00-250.00
For dressing wounds, Ulcers, etc.                                  2.00-10.00

For Extracting Foreign Bodies from Ear, Nose, Eye, Throat,
Urethra and Gun Shot Wounds                                     5.00-50.00
For Ophthalmoscopic Examinations                            10.00-30.00
For Laryngeal Examinations                                        10.00-30.00

All Subsequent Attendance in Surgical cases to be charged at usual rates.
30x30_spacer.gif

ANNUAL CONTRACTS

Resolved, That the members of this society agree not to attend families or individuals by annual contract.

TO REGULATE THE COLLECTION OF BILLS

All medical bills being due at the time the services are rendered, and it being the custom in the city to settle all accounts monthly, therefore;

Resolved, That we, the members of this society adopt and adhere to the Rule of Monthly Collections.

BLACK LIST

Whereas, Many persons are in the habit of employing a Physician until he presents his bill for payment, then discharging him, and calling another; thus going the rounds of the profession, without ever paying or making an effort to pay their bills; therefore,

Resolved, That we, the members of this Society, adopt a Black List, wherein the name, number and street of every such person shall be kept, the preliminaries of which shall be hereafter regulated, and that we decline to render service, until they pay their previous attending Physician or Physicians.

Approved and adopted March 28, 1871.

V.H. Coffman, President

H.R. Benjamin, Recording Secretary

ACTIVITIES

The Omaha Medical Society recorded a number of interesting activities during its first years of existence. Early in 1868, the profession decided to try to secure the body of Otoway G. Baker, who was under sentence of death, in order to examine the corpse for the effects of the hanging. A committee was appointed to solicit the body from the judge, who at first agreed to the request. He later revoked the order when Father Egan, a Catholic priest, objected on behalf of Baker. In a letter to the judge, President G.C. Monell criticized the action of the official because the society was denied an opportunity to obtain knowledge for the benefit of science.

The wide and varied interests of the society were reflected in the minutes. In 1897 the first meeting was devoted to a discussion of the inefficient handling of insane persons in the city jail. A resolution was adopted petitioning the city council to bring about more humane treatment of the mentally sick therein. During the April meeting that year, Dr. J.P. Lord introduced a motion that smoking should be abolished at the meetings, because it. . . (was) obnoxious to nonsmokers, especially the ladies, and . . . (detracted) from the dignity of the body." Another proposal barred newspaper reporters from the meetings, unless decided otherwise by a formal vote of the membership. Dr. B.F. Crummier was the author of a third resolution. The purpose of it was to impress upon the mayor the importance of making the appointment of health commissioner a "full-time" position rather than "a sinecure or political snap." The latter request was one which would be repeatedly and futilely advocated for the next fifty years.

On February 10, 1903 the name of the organization was changed to Omaha-Douglas County Medical Society.

In 1911 the Omaha-Douglas County Medical Society initiated a movement to bring about a major change in the system of contract practice. The change called for dissolution of the entire practice except to a very limited degree. The subject had been discussed for some time and considerable difference of opinion existed among the members. A committee was finally appointed to investigate the practicability of the system and to make recommendations. It was concluded that industrial corporations had the right to engage the services of a physician to examine their workers for employability and in case of injury during the actual time of duty. This service, however, did not apply to the employee’s family or include representatives and officials of the corporation.

The committee also stated that contract practice as applied to lodges, fraternities, benevolent or benefit organizations was detrimental to the best interests of the medical profession. Furthermore, it was agreed that such practice was "eminently unfair" as it purchased medical service at wholesale from the physician, then compels him to peddle out his services at retail and deprives him of any voice in limiting the amount of service to be rendered for the whole-sale price agreed upon.

In conclusion, the committee recommended that members of the society should refuse the position of contract physician for lodges, fraternities, benevolent or benefit organizations. Acceptance of industrial corporations contracts should be considered only if the practice was in harmony with the committee’s recommendations. A second committee was appointed to formulate rules for the punishment of those members who violated these principles.

From its conception, the Omaha-Douglas County Medical Society took an active part in securing the passage of protective medical legislation. During the first fourteen years of statehood, Nebraska had no medical laws. Anyone could call himself a doctor and "prey upon the credulity of the sick and afflicted." Many states already had legislation regulating the qualifications of physicians, thus driving the "quacks" and "charlatans" from their borders. Nebraska, young and vulnerable, was therefore attractive to the outcasts. The medical profession of the state, aware of the danger, prepared a bill regulating the practice of medicine and sent it to the legislature in 1881. It was enacted into law. This measure required all graduates to register their diploma with the county clerk in turn for a certificate to practice. As a result, fourteen per cent of the practicing physicians in Nebraska at the time were disqualified.

Ten years elapsed before additional legislation was passed. The Omaha-Douglas County Medical Society, working through the Nebraska State Medical Association, again attempted to raise physician’s qualifications by proposing the establishment of a state board of health. A law was passed requiring all physicians to have a diploma from a legally chartered school of medicine and to have completed three nine-month lecture courses both approved by the State Board of Health. Six years later, this requirement was amended requesting a four year course of lectures.

Aside from medical legislation, the Omaha-Douglas County Medical Society in 1909 focused its attention on two problems affecting the health of the citizens of Omaha. The first was a resolution to endorse proper government inspection of meat processed in South Omaha. The second was a proposal by Dr. Harold Guilford relative to closing the Burt Street pumping station, which was regarded as a menace to Omaha’s typhoid fever problem.

Health Commissioner, Ralph Conned, having made an investigation of the situation, explained to the society that the city used sixteen to twenty million gallons of water a day. The Florence Station had a capacity of less than sixteen million gallons and the rest came from the Burt Street Station, which was used mostly for manufacturing purposes. Bacterial tests, made by Dr. Millard Langfeld, City Bacteriologist, indicated that water from the Burt Street Station was found to be purer than samples taken from the Florence Station. Despite these findings, further investigation showed that a large sewer emptied into the river ten miles above the Burt Street intake. It was also revealed that the city dump was in the old river bed permitting leakage to contaminate the water. Dr. Connell agreed that the Omaha Water Company could furnish purer water provided that it had an adequate filtration system. He also concurred that it would be a good idea to eliminate the Burt Street Station, but was of the opinion that it was impractical at that time.

Since these findings in no way alleviated the typhoid fever situation, the society moved to consult proper authorities to enlist the assistance of the United States Public Health and Marine Hospital Service. A special committee was appointed to cooperate with Mayor Dahlman and the health department in stamping out typhoid fever in Omaha. A letter was sent to the Governor recommending that he request the services of an officer of the Marine Hospital Service to conduct "a thorough investigation of the water supply, in order that the cause of the said disease invasion . . . (could) be definitely determined and an efficient means of prevention and suppression be instituted."

In April the society heard the plans of Dr. L.L. Lumsden, a representative of the United States Public Health Service, for a campaign in locating the cause of the disease. He informed the members that he was interested in data from any doctor who had been treating typhoid fever patients so that he could cooperate in tracing the source. After conducting the investigation for nearly a month, Dr. Lumsden made the following recommendations: (1) abandonment of the Burt Street Station, (2) protection of the Florence intake of pollution from water entering the river through Mill Creek, (3) treatment of the water supply by some purification process, and (4) boiling of all city water for private use and in the public schools.

At a meeting of the society, Dr. Lumsden concluded that "the epidemic . . . arose primarily from the drinking water, that the river along its whole course . . . (was) polluted at many points, and that at both the Florence and Burt Street intakes there . . . (was) additional local pollution." As a result of the society’s interest and continued efforts, a pure water ordinance was passed by the city council enabling steps to be taken to improve the quality of water for Omaha.

Another campaign for health improvements ensued in 1917. This year heralded the beginning of a long vigorous struggle with the county commissioners in relation to the Douglas County Hospital. The committee that had been appointed to investigate the conditions at the hospital described them as "deplorable" and strongly endorsed a movement to bring about change, including the new county hospital. A grand jury called to investigate the matter reported,

The management is apparently doing everything possible under existing conditions for the comfort of the inmates but the building has in every respect outlived its usefulness, is beyond repair and is at this time and has been for many years entirely inadequate for the purpose intended. It is the recommendation of this grand jury that immediate steps be taken toward providing a new hospital.

The movement had just been initiated, when it was interrupted by the United States entry into World War I.  After the war, in early 1926, the Omaha-Douglas County Medical Society decided to launch a militant health campaign. Acting on a proposal to discard the secrecy aspects of the society, the profession agreed to invite members of the Chamber of Commerce and various civic clubs to discuss problems pertinent to health. The association established as it goal—a model city and county hospital.

A month later, Dr. H. Stiletto, dean of Creighton University College of Medicine and Chairman of the Municipal Affairs Committee of the Omaha-Douglas County Medical Society, offered a proposal for "more and better facilities for public care." The recommendation called for a separation of the county poor farm and hospital, and a modernization of the county hospital.

At that time, Omaha had three facilities for its down-trodden citizens: (1) the county hospital located in "the heart of the city" with most of its land used by Field Club golfers, (2) the city emergency hospital at 9th and Douglas, a former palace of the underworld, given to Omaha by Annie Wilson, a woman "fallen into slime" in memory of her "unfortunate fellowmen," and (3) the city "pest house" on West Center Street used to confine smallpox victims. Referring to the hospitals maintained by the city, Mayor Dahlman said they were "entirely inadequate" to meet the demands placed upon them.

The needs of the county hospital were likewise acute. Those most pressing were providing more space for the tubercular, insane, and drug addicts and erasing the stigma on the hospital of "going to the poor farm." It was necessary to enlist the aid of the legislature to pass a law giving the county power to issue bonds for a county hospital and separate poor farm. A bill was introduced and passed in the senate, however it was defeated in the lower chamber due to the efforts of Representative Miskovsky of Omaha, who denounced the critics of the institution saying, "conditions there . . . (were) not so bad, in fact, the Douglas County poor farm . . . (was) just as good as any in the middle west, if not better. I know the conditions better than anyone else in this house, too.

On June 7 a special meeting of the Omaha-Douglas County Medical Society was held. Representatives from luncheon clubs, the Chamber of Commerce, Taxpayers Research Council, social workers and all interested guests were invited to consider the needs of the county hospital. That night the medical society went on record as adopting a plan for separation of the hospital and poor farm, and for the construction of a modern six-unit hospital.

Physicians were being sent to every noon and evening meeting possible to "tell the world just how little Douglas County . . . (seemed) to think of its sick and afflicted." Soon various pledges of aid were coming to the Omaha-Douglas County Medical Society in support of its fight for the new hospital. On November 6 citizens approved the bonds for the two new wings for Douglas County Hospital. It was a "red-letter" day indeed for the Omaha-Douglas County Medical Society. Regarding the victory, Secretary-Treasurer Dr. Earl Sage said, "It showed that the medical profession could instigate and sponsor a civic movement and carry it through to successful completion. Many physicians were involved in the project and credit should be given to them.

**Our name has been changed to the Greater Omaha Medical Society and finally to its present name of Metropolitan Omaha Medical Society in 1979.

This provides a brief history of the Metro Omaha Medical Society from its inception until the late 1920s. 

 
back to top