The History of the Wyandotte County Medical Society
By James G. Lee, M.D.
John E. Ingram, M.D.
It is hard to imagine what Kansas was like in the days of the Border Ruffians, the Underground Railway, Quantril's Raiders, and the Civil War. It is equally difficult to imagine what it was like practicing medicine in those turbulent times. In the midst of the turmoil, Dr. Joseph Root, one of Wyandotte County's first physicians, was able, through his legislative skill, to create the Kansas Medical Society in 1859, two years before Kansas was made a state.
The Kansas Medical Society was chartered by the Kansas Territorial Legislature on February 10, 1859. The Wyandotte County Medical Society was organized in March of 1893. The early activities, membership, and records of these organizations were minimal.
Dr. J.M. Rowns was elected the first president of the Wyandotte County Medical Society in 1896.
In 1901, the Wyandotte County Medical Society was reorganized, and the state and county societies became components of the American Medical Association.
In 1912, Dr. George Gray was elected president and Dr. J. F. Hassig was elected secretary. At that time, there were 42 members and attendance at meetings was poor. Drs. Gray and Hassig managed to increase membership to 105 and attract more members to meetings. The Wyandotte County Medical Society became the largest one of its kind in the state.
Dr. Gray, with the help of Anthony Kuhls, was responsible for the organization and building of St. Margaret's hospital in 1887. This and the opening of Bethany Hospital in 1892 immeasurably improved the quality and quantity of health care in the area.
Nearly all of the details of the Society were non-existent until 1933. In that year, the members' wives were invited to the meetings. The auxiliary was organized the following year, and a recorded history was established.
The Society was active through the years in disseminating information throughout the community, participating in community activities, and ensuring that local health care needs were met. Thirteen members of the Wyandotte County Medical Society served as presidents of the Kansas Medical Society.
In 1969, the Society conceived the idea of combining the four private hospitals in Kansas City, Kansas into one institution. The idea progressed far past the original expectations due to the nearly unanimous approval of the hospital administrations. Nevertheless, the effort did not succeed.
In the late 1960s, emergency ambulances offered little but transportation. With the development of cardiac resuscitation and other advances, the Wyandotte County Medical Society and the Kansas University Medical Center led efforts to modernize area emergency services.
The possibility of merging the Johnson and Wyandotte County medical societies first surfaced in 1943. The idea resurfaced several times before finally being accepted in 1998. The new Medical Society of Johnson and Wyandotte Counties looks forward to a new age.