Medicine in the Roanoke Valley dates back to the middle seventeen hundreds. One of the famous physicians who practiced in the community was Dr. (Colonel) William Flemming. He was a lieutenant and surgeon at the Sandy Creek expeditions of 1756 against the Indians and was present later at the taking of Fort Duquesne. When General Andrew Lewis was taken sick suddenly near Montvale, while traveling from Richmond to his home just west of Salem, Dr. Flemming was summoned.
The town of Big Lick was incorporated by active legislation on February 24, 1874, and one of the councilmen named in the charter was Dr. James M. Kent. He is reported to have been the first physician in town.
The first medical society in the community, the Roanoke Valley Medical Association, was chartered on June 10, 1881. This association was reorganized between 1897 and 1899 under the title of the Medical Society of Roanoke and was referred to as the MSR. The present Roanoke Academy of Medicine had its inception upon the merger of the Medical Society of Roanoke and the previously competing Aesculapian Society.
Dr. J.D. Kirk initiated the organization of the Roanoke Academy of Medicine by having his wife plan a supper under the auspices of the Aesculapians. The occasion is thought to have occurred in December of 1902. At this occasion, the two societies were merged into the Roanoke Academy of Medicine.
Records for the first few years of the Roanoke Academy of Medicine are not available. However, the first recorded president was Dr. Eustace B. Stone. Dr. Charles G. Cannaday was the first president to serve after the incorporation of the Academy in 1905. At the time of the academy's organization, ninety percent of the regular physicians of the city, and several from the surrounding territory, were members. It was largely through the efforts of the Academy that a competent, highly efficient health officer was employed to be in charge of public health affairs.
For many years the Executive Council transacted the business of the Academy. In 1970, following the revision of the Constitution and ByLaws, the Roanoke Academy of Medicine received its tax free status. At this time the Board of Directors replaced the Executive Council. An important change in the 1987 bylaw revisions was the updating of the Grievance Procedure. In the nineteen fifties, the Roanoke Academy of Medicine Foundation was formed to receive donations to build a meeting place for the Academy to include a library and executive offices.
Over the years, members of the Roanoke Academy of Medicine and its ancestor medical organizations have been quite active in State and National affairs. Ten physicians from this area have served as president of the Medical Society of Virginia. They are Dr. Oscar Wiley (1890), Dr. Joseph A. Gale (1904), Dr. J.W. Preston (1928), Dr. Hugh Trout, Sr (1940), Dr. W.L. Powell (1947), Dr. H. Clark Bates (1958), Dr. Allen Barker (1960), Dr. Alexander McCausland (1968), Dr. John A. Martin (1974) and Dr. H. Christopher Alexander, 111 (1981). At the time of his presidency, Dr Bates was a member of the Arlington Medical Society. Drs. Barker, McCausland, Alexander and Martin have been delegates to the American Medical Association.
The Academy has become a large and active organization. In 1881 there were 13 charter members of the Roanoke Valley Medical Association. Today there are 484 members. Mrs. Irene Carter was part-time Executive Secretary from 1952 to 1967. From 1967 to 1985 Mrs. Rita Roberts served in this capacity with her duties increasing each year. In 1985 the Academy office was moved from Mrs. Robert's home to the Medical Center Building at 127 McClanahan Street, and Mrs. Frances Buford became the Executive Secretary.
For a number of years Mr. John W. Lambert, Jr., has been public relations consultant for the Academy. Under his direction in 1987, a multimedia campaign was launched to improve the relations between the physicians of the Valley and the general public. One of the important parts of this program was a slide show prepared by Mr. Lambert.
The Roanoke Academy of Medicine and its many committees have been deeply involved in medical and community affairs. Hardly a day passes without some type of committee meeting. In addition, the Academy's Ladies Auxiliary carries on many medically related activities. Recently the Academy has established the tradition of underwriting the Auxiliary's entry in the Christmas Tree Extravaganza for the benefit of the Mental Health Association.
Peter A. Wallenborn, Jr., M.D.