Our Medical Work from 1866--1896—No. 11

Training Early Health Teachers and Lecturers

By D. E. ROBINSON, Member of Staff, Ellen G. White Publications

When Jesus was on earth He gave an important principle to His disciples when He sent them forth on their first missionary tour: "Freely ye have received, freely give." The same principle of impart­ing to others the blessings one receives is also found in the instruction given to Seventh-day Adventists regarding the subject of health. In the important vision of June 6, 1863, as re­corded by Mrs. White in a document written the next day, she saw that "it was a sacred duty to attend to our own health, and arouse others to do their duty. . . . We should not be silent upon the subject of health, but should wake up minds to the subject."

In another vision given at Rochester, New York, on December 25, 1865, when she was instructed that Seventh-day Adventists should establish a health home of their own, she saw that it was to be a place where the sick "could be treated for their diseases, and also learn how to take care of themselves so as to pre­vent sickness." 2 In recording the instruction given in this same vision, she further wrote:

"One important part of the work of the ministry is to faithfully present to the people the health re­form, as it stands connected with the third angel's message, as a part and parcel of the same work. They should not fail to adopt it themselves, and should urge it upon all who profess to believe the truth." '

Before the assembled delegates at the Gen­eral Conference of 1866, Mrs. White read what she had written, material which contained the foregoing statements; and they in response pledged themselves "to live in accordance with these principles," and use their "best endeavors to impress their importance upon others.' It is evident that for the ministry to carry on an effective effort in health education, more was required for the undertaking than the divine urge and a hearty response of the mind. With only two or three physicians in the denomina­tion at that time, and these busy with launching the Health Institute and conducting the monthly Health Reformer, the holding of any kind of class in health instruction was obvi­ously impossible. How, then, could the ministry, lacking technical training, receive a proper preparation?

The best they could do was to read and di­gest the books and pamphlets on health written by the progressive writers of the time. The works of Doctors R. T. Trail, J. C. Jackson, Dio Lewis, and others; Sylvester Graham's "Lectures on the Science of Human Life;" and Cole's "Philosophy of Health," were car­ried in stock by the Review and Herald office. Our ministers assimilated the cream of these works, together with the six articles by Mrs. White on "Disease and Its Causes," in the book "How to Live." They also read Laws of Life, and other current health journals which were, in the main, sound in principle.

Thus the members of the ministry took seri­ously the pledge they had made at the General Conference of 1866. When the Health Re­former was launched in August of that year, the early numbers were largely made up of articles from such prominent ministers as Elders J. N. Andrews, J. N. Loughborough, R. F. Cottrell, J. H. Waggoner, and the Bour­dean brothers. Elder A. C. Bourdeau particu­larly welcomed the advent of the new health journal as "another door of usefulness" "opened before us." "Such a journal," he said, "will give us more room to express our minds on the health reform."'

In anticipation of possible criticism from readers of the Health Reformer, because of the large number of nonprofessional writers, the editor said concerning the qualifications of these clerical writers: "They have been forced by circumstances and their own experience to acquaint themselves more or less with the health reform; and they are prepared to speak as advisedly with reference to its great princi­ples as though they could attach to their names all the titles known to the medical profession."'

At this time M. G. Kellogg, a young man in California, felt impressed to give up his busi­ness, in which he was earning good wages, sell his home, and use the proceeds to secure a medical education. "I did this," he wrote to Mrs. E. G. White, "because I believed the work of health reform was of God, and that God had a work for me to do in the message."' He was the first of several Seventh-day Ad­ventist youth to take the course of study at the Hygeio-Therapeutic College, at Florence Heights, New Jersey, and in the spring of 1866 he returned from the institution with the degree of M.D. Elder and Mrs. White were much interested in Doctor Kellogg, and they questioned him closely regarding the principles he had learned in the college. Speaking of their conversations, Elder White wrote : "The harmony between what the Lord has revealed relative to this subject, and science, has been a theme of most interesting conversation, and mutual profit."'

In the minutes of the 1868 General Confer­ence, which convened a few weeks later, is recorded a recognition of the fact that "the cause of health reform among our people de­mands that labor and attention which our preachers cannot bestow in connection with their other labors." An action was taken rec­ommending that Dr. M. G. Kellogg should labor "in that department of the great work of preparation for the coming of the Son of man."' It was arranged that he should work under the direction of the General Conference Committee, who would assume responsibility for his support. Readers of the Review were urged to extend invitations to him to visit their churches, and it was expected that the be­lievers in each place would also contribute to his support, and pay his traveling expenses.

It would be gratifying to be able to report that this move to send professionally trained lecturers into the field met with success. The facts, however, do not warrant such a state­ment, and, not having received sufficient calls to induce him to remain in this work, Doctor Kellogg returned to California, Thus ended in regrettable disappointment the first attempt to place professional lecturers on health in the field. A decade passed before further progress was made in this direction. During this period, the Battle Creek Sanitarium had grown in size and prestige. It had been manned with a staff of physicians graduated from the best medical schools in the land. All this was gratifying. A strong educational work was carried on at the sanitarium itself, and through the Health Reformer. But with the growth in church membership and the accession to the ministry of many younger men, not acquainted with the enthusiasm with which the work of reform had been launched, the health work was being neglected.

In the autumn of 1876, "Testimonies for the Church" No. 27 appeared, in which attention was called to the combined work done by Jesus in healing the sick and preaching the gospel. It was pointed out that He "devoted more time and labor to healing the afflicted of their mala­dies than to preaching." The disciples whom He sent out were instructed first to heal the sick, then to preach that "the kingdom of God had come nigh unto them." These were cited as examples of how God's people today would be successful in their work.

Instruction from the pen of Mrs. White made it evident that opportunity should be afforded whereby laymen and ministers might receive an education in health principles. It was natural that they should look to the sani­tarium physicians for such training. Dr. J. H. Kellogg, superintendent of the sanitarium, and his associates were well aware of this need, and greatly desired to meet it, but for a time serious difficulties were in the way. There was no place where a school could be held, and the physicians at the institution were over­whelmed with the responsibilities of caring for the growing work. With the erection of the new sanitarium building, the first of these difficulties was removed, and as the work of building neared completion, the medical staff felt sufficiently freed from responsibility to make an announcement of the opening of a "School of Hygiene." In his announcement of the school, Doctor Kellogg enthusiastically voiced his hopes for its success in these words:

"The world is suffering for want of teachers to point out the right way. Thousands are dying daily for want of the very information which will be im­parted in the course of instruction in the School of Hygiene. There are calls from all directions for lectures on these subjects. During the present win­ter there ought to be a hundred lecturers in the field educating the people on the subjects which are of the most vital importance to them, viz., those relating to life and health."

The opening of such a school was truly an advance step, for we find the claim made that it was "not only the first, but the only, such school in America.' The requirements for medical training were still so liberal in those days that it might have been possible for the sanitarium to receive a charter, empowering it to grant the degree of M.D. to those who completed the course offered. But the pro­moters of the enterprise refused to consider this. They were positive in their conviction that the time had passed when anything short of the most thorough and complete education should be recognized or sanctioned by those who would practice the healing art. However, the claim was made by Doctor Kellogg that at that time, even among the first-class medical colleges, only one had a professorship of hy­giene. He asserted it was to supply this lack that the School of Hygiene was to be opened.

The School of Hygiene was opened January 14, 1878, with an enrollment of seventy-five, and this number was soon doubled. The course continued for twenty weeks, with daily lessons and class recitations. Several studies collateral to hygiene were included, such as anatomy, physiology, chemistry, physics, and mental philosophy. The immediate results of this school are not now apparent. Doubtless it was like the leaven which was hid in the meal.

In 1883 a call was made for students to train for nursing service. But evidently the opportunities for engaging in this profession were not yet comprehended by Seventh-day Adventists, for only two young women were enrolled in this initial effort of the sanitarium to train its own nurses. ("Medical Missionary Year Book," 1896, p. 117.) A much better response was received in the autumn, when it was announced that the course would be lengthened from three to six months. The following year the training period was length­ened to two years. With each succeeding year, the school of nursing became better known, and the number of applications increased.

In 1888 a class of eight nurses was formed. This group definitely pledged themselves to devote their lives to medical missionary work. They were given more advanced instruction than those in the regular training classes. Their example was an important factor in in­fluencing others to devote their lives more di­rectly to the combined ministry of religion and health. These later filled important posi­tions in the cause, in institutional work, as for­eign missionaries, and as teachers.

The next year, Doctor Kellogg presented be­fore the General Conference Committee in session in Battle Creek, the increasing demand for efficient and consecrated laborers in the health and temperance work. He pointed out that other lines of work had absorbed so many of the young people of the denomination that it was difficult to find competent persons even to man the large sanitarium. He foresaw that with the advancing work, other medical insti­tutions would be established, and competent helpers and physicians would be needed to staff them. In addition to the opportunities for service in medical institutions, there were, he said, many openings in the field. He urged that many be trained in hygiene and cooking at the larger camp meetings. Nurses were also needed for foreign missionary service, in city missions, and in schools."

To meet these needs the General Conference threw its hearty support into the launching of the "health and temperance missionary school." They recommended that schools, missions, camp meetings, and other denominational en­terprises should select their matrons, cooks, and nurses from among those who had received a special training for this work; and that con­ference executives should select suitable young men and young women to go to the sanitarium to take this special training. Thus it was hoped that an army of matrons, cooks, nurses, and physicians might be speedily recruited."

The response to this appeal, we are told, was "even more successful than was anticipated by its projectors."' At the end of the four-month period of training, it was reported that the regular daily attendance of the class had averaged about a hundred, of which number more than twenty were prepared to enter the field immediately. Among those who enrolled in this first school for health-and-temperance missionaries were a number whose names were later to become prominent in denominational work. First in influence, we should mention Elder W. H. Wakeham, secretary of the Health and Temperance Association, who for many years strongly promoted medical mis­sionary work. Among other members well re­membered by our older workers were A. A. John, J. B. Beckner, G. H. Baber, W. L. Bird, M. A. Altman, and Dr. Lauretta Kress.

It will be noted that it was the Health and Temperance Association that promoted this new enterprise, and it was through this organ­ization that the influence of the school was most immediately felt. The term "medical missionary," now so familiar to us, was then just beginning to be used. The journal bear­ing that name was launched in January, 1891, and through its columns were given reports from the field, of those who, having received the training, were devoting their lives to that branch of work. The name of the school was also changed from the Health and Temperance Missionary School to "Medical Missionary School."

The class of workers trained in this school is seen in an analysis of the thirty-seven graduates of the second course in the spring of 1891. These were qualified as:    lecturers of hygiene and temperance; (2) missionary canvassers; and (3) teachers of dietetics, scientific cookery, hygiene of dress, and phys­ical culture, and organization of mothers' meetings. Some of them were qualified for several of these lines."

The organization of this class in 1889 is said to have "marked the beginning of a revival of interest in hygienic subjects." A number of those who took the course later became physicians, and they, in turn, became educa­tors of others in health lines, as did also many of those who qualified in cookery, nursing, and other lines. At the end of five years the course was discontinued, "the instruction being in­corporated with that given in other classes, so that the necessity for the special course first outlined no longer existed."'

1 Ellen G. White Letter 4, 1863.

"Testimonies for the Church," Vol. 1, p. 553.

Id., pp. 469, 470.

4 Review and Herald, May 22, 1866.

5 Id., June 12, 3866.

6 Health Reformer, September, 1866

7 Letter dated July 16, 1868.

8 Review and Herald, April 28, 1868.

9 Id., May 26, 1868.

10 "Health Reformer, December, 1877,

11 Id., June I, 1878. Review and Herald, February 18, 1890. 

12 Good Health, February, 1890.

13 Medical Missionary, April, 1891.

14 Medical Missionary Year Book, 1896, p. 125.


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By D. E. ROBINSON, Member of Staff, Ellen G. White Publications

October 1940

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