Up until 1960, Boise area physicians were members of the SW Idaho Medical Society(SWIMS), a territory that started at the Nevada/Oregon border going north to New Meadows and east to Glenns Ferry. An evening dinner was held monthly in the Owyhee Hotel. The highly collegial meetings – always preceded by a cocktail hour – allowed for doctors to discuss patient cases, meet specialists for referrals, and routinely ignore the objections from more conservative members about the use of dues to pay for drinks.
Eventually, a group of doctors elected Dr. Loy T. Swinehart as the president of the unofficial “Boise Physicians Club.” A group in name only, they distributed triangular shaped windshield stickers for physician cars to keep them from getting towed if parked in unauthorized places or doctors only stalls. Soon, it became obvious that the Boise area needed its own officers and local organzation, although it made the rest of SWIMS members nervous about them breaking away.
A petition was carried to the IMA Annual Meeting in Sun Valley and passed by the Officers and Councilors there, granting a charter to ACMS on January 30, 1960. Ada and Elmore Counties were designated as its own component society of the Idaho Medical Association and Dr. James J. Coughlin became the first president of the Society.
In its first meeting that month, a long list of reasons was recorded as raison d'etre for ACMS. They provide an interesting perspective on the issues of the era for the medical community, some remaining quite relevant even to today. Among them:
- Marriage Counseling
- School physicians – football exams
- Mental Health Clinic
- Indigent Care
- Physician-Hospital Relationship
- Polio Foundation
- Booth Memorial
One of the major roles that ACMS played late into the 20th century was a grievance committee to examine malpractice and patient complaints. This consumed much of the organization’s time adjudicating issues to protect the practice of medicine through local peer review. As this process was increasingly assumed by the Idaho Board of Medicine – and amidst anti-trust lawsuits against membership associations in other states - medical societies have happily shed this responsibility to agencies with more authority.
A 1963 County Fair Display showing diseases that had been laid to rest by immunizations. If only!
Over the years, ACMS has had a strong hand in various community health efforts including:
- Since the early 1970's, helping launch at least 4-5 community clinics for the uninsured. More recently, ACMS stood in the gap for the uninsured when it mattered most just last year, by helping raise funds to pass Proposition 2 to expand Medicaid in Idaho in a historic ballot initiative vote.
- Supporting the establishment of the Family Medicine Residency of Idaho in the 1970’s and helping promote the expansion of it and other residency programs in Boise.
- In 1975, ACMS and IMA helped bring the California-based Medical Insurance Exchange Carrier (MIEC) to Idaho to provide liability coverage amidst a statewide malpractice crisis when several carriers fled the state.
- Helping charter Ada Canyon Medical Education Consortium (ACMEC) to provide ongoing medical education opportunities.
- Providing financial and medical support for organizations like the Booth Memorial Home for Pregnant Teens, the March of Dimes, and NAMI.
- Helping promote various public health issues including immunizations, anti-smoking statutes, suicide prevention, and mental health.
- Coming alongside area high school physicals screening since around 1980.
- Launching three Boise State University scholarship funds (through the ACMS Auxiliary, which has its own article length legacy since the 1930s) for nursing, medical technology, and respiratory therapy.
Some say that 60 is the new 40 and if that is the case, this medical society is nowhere near retirement. Whereas nationally, many local medical societies are having existential crises when big employers of physicians no longer feel a need to pay association dues, ACMS is continuing to grow. In the past six years alone, our membership has jumped from 1229 to over 2300. Our market saturation of physician members among all those licensed in Ada County is 72%. These facts owe to continued strong relationships and mutual esteem with hospitals and large groups, a city that is bursting at its seams, and relevant modern programming.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the way ACMS has led the way on issues surrounding physician well-being. We were an early adopter of providing confidential physician counseling as a membership benefit. We have subseuqently helped rapidly spread this kind of program to over 20 county medical societies through collaborative publication of an award-winning toolkit. Our efforts at fanning the flames for institutional and cultural change has been pivotal and inspirational. It is not only ACMS as an institution, but its individual members who have caught this vision and are adamant about stemming burnout in the profession.
This year we are celebrating our 60th anniversary with a weekly spotlight on an ACMS physician each month. You can see our first eight honored here and we will get to 52 over the next 12 months. We want all members to nominate those who deserve to get more attention than they are used to.
As ACMS looks beyond our own careers and lifetimes to the next 60 years of medicine, we face an ever-changing landscape of regulations, societal and consumer expectations, and technological market disrupters. Now more than ever physicians must fight to stay connected to each other and to their patients to provide the very best care. As your local medical society, we aim to build a foundation of leadership excellence and relationships that will embrace the challenges of the future while holding onto the historical fundamentals of medicine. Thank you for joining us for the ride.