Vaccination vindicated, Maine doctors proclaim

The Maine Medical Association dusted off a copy of its journal from January 1914  to reflect upon as the year winds down. What issues captivated Maine doctors a century ago? Syphilis, typhoid, perhaps a looming war among the world’s great powers?



Actually, their concerns are strikingly familiar. The more things change, the more they stay the same, the MMA aptly pointed out, detailing some highlights from the journal in its newsletter this week.

    Mountains of research have further confirmed that conclusion since 1914. Sure, the docs were referring to smallpox, but this public debate remains robust even today around a number of infectious diseases. “We wish to call attention, publicly, to the fact that out of twelve patients suffering from a small epidemic of small pox in Portland, in July, 1913, not a single one had ever been vaccinated.”
  • We may think of transparency around health care costs as a modern (and belated) development, but an advertisement for the Saint Barnabas Hospital in Portland promoted its prices. The “private institution for the care and treatment of all Surgical Diseases” offered rates starting at $2 a day, “depending on size and location of room.” That’s a little less than $50 in today’s dollars. Good luck finding a hospital stay at that rate.

    Sr. Barnabas Hospital. Credit:

    Sr. Barnabas Hospital. Credit:

  • A report from the Cumberland County Medical Society chastised efforts to remove the head of the “Insane Asylum at Augusta,” the institution we now know as Riverview Psychiatric Center.
    A postcard depicting the Augusta asylum building around 1900. Credit:

    A postcard depicting the Augusta asylum building around 1900. Credit:

    The group’s resolution backed Superintendent Dr. Henry Miller, saying his removal would prove “detrimental to the interests of the insane of our State.” The political battle over his tenure might ring true to Mary Louise McEwen, who was ousted from the helm of the troubled facility in March.

    An editorial comment that appeared in the same journal also criticized the role politics played in the decision to remove Miller. The editorial reads:  “A true physician not only seeks to improve the physical and mental welfare of his patients but is a councilor in all matters pertaining to the improvement of general conditions for mankind. He can be one of the strongest factors for good and make his influence so felt that the petty politician will be relegated to past history. During the past few years a reaction from the domineering form of political activity has swept the country and whether right or wrong, has resulted from such episodes as the one just closed.”

    Politics in health care? Let’s not relegate that one to the history books just yet.

Jackie Farwell

About Jackie Farwell

I'm the health editor for the Bangor Daily News, a Bangor native, a UMaine grad, and a weekend crossword warrior. I never get sick of writing about Maine people, geeking out over health care data, and finding new ways to help you stay well. I live in Gorham with my husband Nick and our hound dog Riley.