The fourth-oldest medical society in the United States, the Medical Society of South Carolina was founded in 1789 to “improve the Science of Medicine, promoting liberality in the Profession, and Harmony amongst the Practitioners.” Though Charleston physicians predominated, membership was open “to any gentleman of merit in the medical profession.” Peter Fayssoux served as the organization’s first president.
The society quickly acquired a leading role in medical and public health issues. In 1790 the organization planned a dispensary for the relief of the sick and indigent, which evolved into the Shirras Dispensary and served the Charleston community until merging with Roper Hospital in 1921. The society established a medical library in 1791, which helped physicians stay abreast of current literature. In 1801 the Charleston City Council requested that the society form a board of health, and the society appointed officers and a port physician to serve in this capacity. From 1805 to 1815 the society operated a botanic garden to promote “the study of that valuable branch of Science.” In 1817 the General Assembly entrusted the society to serve as an examining committee to license physicians and apothecaries, though a license was not required until 1895.
The Medical College of South Carolina was founded by the society in December 1823, with society members constituting six of the original seven faculty members. The school become a state institution in 1913 and the Medical University of South Carolina in 1969. The society opened Roper Hospital in Charleston in 1856. Although management of the facility passed to CareAlliance Health Services in 1998, the society continued its interest in the hospital as a founding member of the CareAlliance corporation.
The Medical Society of South Carolina provided leadership in the founding of the American Medical Association (1847), the South Carolina Medical Association (1848), and the Charleston County Medical Society (1951). In the early twenty-first century the Medical Society of South Carolina remained an active organization, whose interests and activities continued to respond to ongoing evolution of the medical profession.
Jervey, Louis P., and W. Curtis Worthington, Jr. The Medical Society of South Carolina: The First Two Hundred Years. Charleston: Medical Society of South Carolina, 1990.
Medical Society of South Carolina. Minutes (1789–1986). Waring Historical Library, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston.