The Nashville Medical Society was the first medical association in Tennessee, founded on March 5, 1821, by seven physicians: Drs. Felix Robertson (president), James Roane (secretary), Boyd McNairy, Adam Gibbs Goodlett, James Overton, John Waters, and R.A. Higginbotham. The goals of the society that would become the Nashville Academy of Medicine included establishing a society for doctors trained in medical schools and improving the health of Middle Tennessee. The newly formed society instituted agreed-upon fees for various services including in-town visits ($1), country travel ($1 per mile), and night visits ($5).
Nine years later, these doctors led the formation of a statewide society which would become the Tennessee Medical Association, with Nashville physician, Dr. James Roane, as president. In 1853, the Davidson County Medical Society formed; and in 1893, merged with the Nashville Academy of Medicine to unite all local physicians. The organization was chartered by Tennessee on Sept. 4, 1906.
Today, academy members represent 70 fields of practice, all local hospital staffs, faculties and administration of Nashville's three medical schools, local and state health departments and boards and numerous health organizations. Members have been U.S. senators, mayors, decorated war heroes, and leaders of state and national medical societies. They influenced the founding of every hospital in the Nashville region and created numerous companies, medical practices and nonprofits. Membership has grown from 7 members in 1821, to 900 in the 1970s, to 2,300 members today, including eight presidents of the American Medical Association and 47 presidents of the Tennessee Medical Association.
The Academy's services have had a lasting impact on physicians and the community, including:
- 1823 - Members funded The Hospital of the State of Tennessee, serving those in poverty with weekly care ranging from $2.50 - $7.
- 1832 -Members pushed for the city's first public health measures to address a cholera epidemic.
- 1866 - The organization created its own board of health to oversee hygiene, endemic diseases and sanitation, resulting in a comprehensive sewage system, a pure water supply and clean streets. In 1873, a permanent Board of Health was established, after years of encouragement from physicians.
- 1888 - NAM "formally condemned" cigarette smoking following the findings of its committee that explored the effects of tobacco products.
- 1897 - NAM called for the end of the yellow fever quarantine, after conditions had improved.
- 1950 - NAM encouraged schools to ban soda-pop and candy bars.
- 1958 - NAM collaborated with fire departments to offer free diabetes screenings.
- 1962 - NAM leaders fought polio with events and vaccination information.
- 1968 - The organization co-sponsored a health career fair for 90,000 students, highlighting 35 different medical careers.
- 1975 - NAM launched a nationwide program that provided brief recordings concerning a variety of health topics.
- 1990s - NAM and Leadership Nashville matched business leaders with medical professionals in a mini-internship program.
- 2005 - NAM and the Safety Net Consortium of Middle Tennessee created Bridges to Care Plus, which became Project Access Nashville Specialty Care, to provide specialty healthcare for those who could not afford it. Beginning with 260 physician volunteers, today this program has over 1,500 physician volunteers, six hospital partners, and $50 million in donated care.
- 2018 - NAM launched the Medical Foundation of Nashville, a 501(c)3 to empower our community by supporting health access through Project Access Nashville, promoting healthy lifestyles, and championing health and medical education.
- 2020 - NAM members fought Covid-19 by volunteering at vaccination sites, working endless hours caring for patients, hosting meetings for area doctors to learn about the disease and more.
This has been a year of celebration for the organization, including recognition by the Tennessee Senate and the Tennessee Medical Association. On Saturday, Oct. 2, the bicentennial celebration culminated with a gala benefiting the Medical Foundation of Nashville at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. The halls were adorned with medical memorabilia, photos, manuscripts, and historical archives.
NAM Board Chair Robin Williams, MD; NAM President Nicole Schlechter, MD; MFN Board Chair Ralph Atkinson, MD; and MFN Board Vice-Chair Christopher Ott, MD, shared the history and accomplishments of the organization with the audience and led the evening's celebrations. Guests danced to the songs of the renowned Jimmy Church Band and toasted the history and the future of the Nashville Academy of Medicine and its physician members.
Learn more about the organization and its impact on our community, including a timeline outlining two centuries of service, at NashvilleMedicine.org.
BOILERPLATE: Rebecca Leslie, MBA, serves as chief executive officer for both the Nashville Academy of Medicine and Medical Foundation of Nashville, leading the staff in support of the 2,300 physician members and volunteers.
Project Access: https://nashvillemedicine.org/project-access-nashville/