IMA's History: A Legacy of Leadership

The year was 1893. As Idaho approached a new century with the unbridled optimism that characterized the 1890's, its medical community was in disarray. "The state was overrun with quacks" engaging in dangerous medical practices, said historian of the time Sam Allison.

Boise physician Dr. Carol Lincoln Sweet, the father of Idaho organized medicine, stepped in to bring order from the medical chaos. He sent a letter to Idaho physicians inviting their attendance at a meeting in Boise on September 12 to organize, draw up laws to protect physicians, exchange ideas, and "enjoy the inspiration of fellowship." Historian Allison documents that, "More than 20 of the leading physicians of this state met at this city to consummate a plan long in contemplation, that of the organization of a state medical society for Idaho."

The meeting concluded September 13, 1893, with the founding of the Idaho State Medical Society. Dr. W. W. Watkins of Moscow was elected the society's first president. The name of the group evolved to the Idaho State Medical Association, then (in 1967) the Idaho Medical Association, today's IMA.

Early efforts of the organization focused on setting and maintaining standards for the practice of medicine in Idaho. From 1894 to 1897 it worked diligently to pass legislation creating a board of medical examiners. The IMA continued to lobby for stronger licensing procedures and finally succeeded in passing the Medical Practice Act of 1949, which established the Idaho State Board of Medicine.

IMA activities have advanced medical education and continuing education for Idaho students and physicians. Association support has been crucial in securing medical school placement for Idaho students through the WWAMI program and funding the Boise and Pocatello family practice residencies. In 1990 IMA trustees founded the IMA Medical Education Scholarship Trust to assist Idaho medical students.

Early Idaho Medical Association meetings emphasized speakers, scientific papers and exchanges to help members keep up with rapidly expanding medical knowledge. Commitment to continuing education has continued throughout IMA's history, and in 1976 the Association was accredited by the American Council of Continuing Medical Education to, in turn, accredit local sponsors of CME.

The IMA has historically taken a leadership role in public health and safety issues. Its proactive support for polio immunization, public water fluoridation, civil defense planning, cigarette warning labels, use of seat belts, child abuse reporting, motorcycle helmet use, day care licensing, cigarette taxes, minimum drinking age, and immunization of schoolchildren has positively impacted the quality of life and health of all Idahoans.

The IMA has been instrumental in bringing health insurance to the state, helping establish the North Idaho District and South Idaho Medical Service Bureaus, which have emerged as today's Regence BlueShield of Idaho and Blue Cross of Idaho. The IMA also guided physicians through a 1975 malpractice insurance crisis, championing tort reform to help assure Idaho physicians have access to malpractice insurance.

The IMA was born from the need of Idaho doctors to professionalize. From this beginning the Association has matured into a leading advocate for the practicing physician and for improving the quality of Idaho's health care. For more than a century, the Idaho Medical Association has supported and served the medical community and fostered high quality care for all Idahoans through its leadership in legislation, medical education, and public health.