Our Medical Work from 1866 to 1896

Our Medical Work from 1866 to 1896—No. 9

Early Medical Education of Adventist Doctors

K. L. J., R.N. & H. M. W., M.D. 

In a previous article we noted the early recognition on the part of our denomina­tional leaders of the necessity of training nurses skilled in specific lines of nursing care, particularly hydrotherapy, in order to carry on a distinctive type of medical work. Like­wise; as the medical work expanded and the vision of medical missionary endeavors en­larged, there also came a realization of the necessity for training medical missionary doc­tors. In this article we can only briefly trace events relating to the endeavors and plans for educating our Seventh-day Adventist youth of that day in lines of distinctive therapy amidst the most favorable spiritual conditions pos­sible.

In the early days of our first health journal, the Health Reformer (1866), it is to be re­membered there was considerable reaction against the rather unrestricted use of drugs that was the common practice of the medical doctors of that day. "Hygienic" physicians, who used "rational" therapy and various sys­tems of healing the sick other than "drug­ging," were receiving more or less general favor about this time, and there was a wide­spread awakening and interest in health re­forms and disease prevention. H. S. Lay, M.D., in his first editorial in Volume 1, No. 1, of the Health Reformer, reflects something of the spirit of the day in this statement:

"It shall be our great object to lay before our readers facts of vital importance in relation to the health reform, and aim to instruct the people how to avoid sickness, or if sick, how to regain their health, and that without poisons."—August, 1866.

It is to be recognized that in those early years medical education was in a rather chaotic state, not being regulated as to mini­mum standard and requirements as it is today. There were only five established medical col­leges in the United States in i800, the first one having been founded in Philadelphia in 1765. During much of this period medical schools, with a few notable exceptions, were scantily equipped and only the better schools had men of renown and learning as leaders. Few had hospital facilities which afforded clinical experience to the students. The course of instruction consisted at first of two annual sessions of six to seven months' duration. Stu­dents received much of their instruction and all their experience by assisting a physician-preceptor in the care of his patients. The American Medical Association became estab­lished in 1847, and one of its chief objects was "the improvement of medical education in the United States."

Doctor Trail, who was an ardent reformer and rather vigorous in his attacks upon the medical profession, through the Health Re­former condemned allopathy as "the worst sys­tem of all." Under date of December, 1868, he decried the fact that about two thousand medical students would be enrolled that winter in the medical schools, and would soon be turned loose upon the public. "Against this formidable array of legalized poisoners," he wrote, "we have one single antidrug school—the New York Hygeio-Therapeutic College." This school, organized in 18,51, received a charter from the State of New York. It ac­commodated only small classes, admitting women equally with men, a matter of interest since there was strong sentiment during this early period against admitting women to medi­cal schools= women who 'unsex themselves' by adopting the healing art as a vocation." In defense of the woman physician, Doctor Trall wrote, "Woman drug doctors, as a general rule, dose and poison less than men doctors of the same school ; while they instinctively give more attention to hygiene and proper nursing."

With the spread of knowledge of how to treat sickness by nondrug methods, requests for physicians believing the ideas supported in the Health Reformer came from many quarters of the field. Doctor Trail, in re­sponse to many inquiries, finally responded by suggesting in an editorial that persons or communities wanting a "hygienic physician" send the material to make them of, by select­ing suitable men or women, lending them the money, and sending them to the Hygeio­Therapeutic College, on condition that they should locate and practice permanently in the community sending them, repaying the loan as soon as they earned it. "We see no other way in which the demand for 'true healers' can be supplied during the present century, if ever." (August, 1870.) He carried such a burden for training men and women in the "hygienic system" that he published the following notice in the Health Reformer of October, 1870:

"Free Scholarships. We hereby offer to give free tickets to the ensuing course of lectures of the Hygeio-Therapeutic College, commencing the middle of November next, to the first twenty-five women, desirous of becoming physicians or lecturers of the hygienic system, who apply, and who are of good character, and unable to pay."

It will be noted that no educational attain­ment was required of the recipients of this generous offer. Also it was evidently intended that such students would thus become qualified to practice as physicians. We have made the foregoing references to the work of Doctor Trail since he undoubtedly exerted consider­able influence upon the medical work of the denomination, upon the leaders of our work in that day, and upon the church membership at large.

Meanwhile the work of the Health Insti­tute, our first sanitarium, was growing in size and in general favor. With its expansion and increased clientele, however, the demand for securing suitable "hygienic" doctors increased. It would appear that the management of the sanitarium gave promising young men and young women encouragement, and some finan­cial assistance to take the medical course. J. H. Kellogg was encouraged and sponsored in taking the medical course in addition to his personal earnest interest in the principles of health, and his desire to equip himself to teach them to others. Doctor Kellogg was graduated from the Belvue Hospital Medical College in 1875, and the next year was made medical director of the sanitarium. In the Review and Herald of May 24, 1877, Elder James White included the following in­teresting and significant comment in his edi­torial:

"Five years since, we became satisfied that our. Health Institute could not rise to eminence and the full measure of usefulness, without thoroughly educated physicians to stand at the head of it. We laid our plans to gain this point, and without assistance or sympathy from anyone we have pressed this matter forward. Dr. J. H. Kellogg has been true as steel. Doctors Fairfield and Sprague, who are studying under him, will graduate at the highest medical school on the continent in the spring of 1878. It is a disgrace to Seventh-day Adventists to do a second-class job in anything."

Following Doctor Kellogg's connection with the sanitarium, interest in medical workers, and efforts to train them, appears to have in­creased, for, in reporting to a joint meeting of the General Conference Committee and members of the sanitarium board, Doctor Kellogg presented a review of the educational efforts carried on by the institution. Respect­ing medical education, we find this reference:

"For more than fifteen years, medical students have been received at the sanitarium, and many have been assisted by private individuals in ob­taining a medical education. The expectation on the part of the sanitarium board and the individuals who have rendered financial assistance to such per­sons, has been that after completing their medical course, they would devote their life and energies to the philanthropic work represented by the institution, either in the institution itself or under its auspices elsewhere."—Medical Mission,ary, Vol. 1, No. 8, Aug., 1891, pp. 154-156.

The hopes and plans for developing medical missionaries met with some disappointments, however, for many thus assisted within a year or two disconnected themselves from the or­ganized work to engage in independent medi­cal work. We read:

"This matter has been the occasion of deep re­gret, distress, and discouragement to those who have devoted time and money to the education of young men and women for medical missionary work, and keen disappointment has often been felt, especially when, as has not infrequently been the case, solemn pledges of devotion to the work had been made."—Id., p. 154.

Joint Meeting in Medical Missionary Interests

In an endeavor to correct this dishearten-. ing and unfortunate situation, and as a means of sharing responsibility in the selection of students, the General Conference Committee was requested" to meet jointly with the sani­tarium board and with the members of the medical class who were then beginning their preparation for medical missionary work at the sanitarium. This was the first joint meet­ing of the General Conference Committee and the sanitarium board in the interests of educa­tion of medical missionaries. It was regarded at that time as "one of the most important meetings ever held in the interests of mission­ary work." It "convened the evening of Au­gust 18, in the sanitarium parlor."

In an endeavor to safeguard the interests of the denominational medical missionary work, and as a further means of giving point to the grave responsibilities and obligations of those who engaged in the practice of medi­cine and were the recipients of financial aid, painstaking efforts, and expense on the part of the sanitarium in the education of physi­cians, a pledge was prepared by the sanitarium board and approved by the General Conference Committee. Each student who entered upon the course of preparation for medical mission­ary work was required to sign this pledge in good faith. The pledge follows:

"Believing that the principles of hygiene and temperance reform, which are taught in the sanita­rium, are a part of the truth of God ; and that the sanitarium has been established, by the direction of he Lord, for the development and promulgation of these principles, and that this work is a part of the work of God, I therefore pledge myself—

"1. That I will uphold, by precept and example, the principles of hygienic and temperance reform presented in the Testimonies of Sister White, and prothulgated by the sanitarium and its managers.

"2. That I will engage in medical work in con­nection with the cause, under the direction of the managers of the sanitarium and the General Con­ference Committee, for a period of five years after graduation, providing I am not prevented from so doing by failure of health, or other reasons which shall be considered good and sufficient by the sanitarium board and the General Lonit,enc Co.n­mittee."—Medical Missionary, August, 1891.

It is also interesting and gratifying to note the attitude, expressed at this time, toward adequate training of these students:

"The medical preparation must be the most thorough and complete possible, since the duties of the medical missionary are more numerous, varied, and exacting than those of the physician under any other circumstances. It is especially im­portant that those who engage in this work shall have a thorough knowledge of the methods and principles employed in treatment at the sanitarium,"

In the meantime the demand for well-edu­cated physicians, thoroughly trained in sani­tarium treatment methods, was steadily in­creasing. Doctor Kellogg wrote in the Review and Herald of April 3, 1888, "Wanted—One dozen medical students." In November of the next year there was an urgent call for six young people to come to the sanitarium at once to begin their medical training. In the Medical Missionary of June, 1891, a more hopeful outlook is reported, for at that time twenty promising young men and young women had pledged themselves to medical mis­sionary work, and had begun their work at the sanitarium, where a preliminary year was spent prior to going to the University of Mich­igan at Ann Arbor. In the fall of 1891 a sanitarium home was established for the bene­fit of the Seventh-day Adventist group of medical students at Ann Arbor. Concerning this home, we read:

"The purpose of the sanitarium managers in purchasing and fitting up this building has been to provide a suitable home for medical students who are pursuing medical studies under the direction of the sanitarium board, as a preparation for medical missionary work. It is the desire of the board that this 'home' shall be a pleasant, healthful, homelike place, where order, decorum, and wholesome moral influences shall prevail, and a Christian spirit reside. To this end the careful observance of certain regulations is necessary. It is the expectation of the board that the following rules, which have been prepared for the guidance of the inmates of the home, will be carefully observed by each one."—Medical Missionary, October and November, 1891.

The regulations referred to make interesting reading, and cover the program of the day from five in the morning to ten in the evening. The "home" was in charge of Brother D. H. Kress, as chaplain, and Sister Kress, as ma­tron, who are now our beloved veteran Doctors Daniel and Lauretta Kress.

Members of this medical students' home in its first year, now well known for their achievements, were David Paulson, W. A. George, Alfred B. Olsen, Howard F. Rand, Miss Abbie Winegar, and others. The bene­fits of providing such a congenial home, per­vaded by a religious atmosphere, are self-evident, and the faithful, productive lives of the few mentioned, and of the many more who might be named, bear eloquent testimony to the influence of the various teachers who gave their best to the training of our medical leaders of an elder day.                    

K. L. J. & H. M. W.

Next month we will tell of the founding of our first medical college—the A.M.M.C.—Editors.

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K. L. J., R.N. & H. M. W., M.D. 

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