About the Society
The Worcester District Medical Society, a professional association representing over 2000 physicians and medical students in Massachusetts, was founded in 1794. With its offices in historic Mechanics Hall, it is one of the oldest medical societies in the United States and remains dedicated to helping physicians serve their patients.
The Worcester Medical Library was founded by the Society in 1798. The Library is dedicated to supporting educational programs for physicians and to maintaining resources on the history of medicine. In 1973 its collection was brought to the University of Massachusetts Medical School to establish a rare book room in the Lamar Soutter Library and an on-going partnership with the medical school was established.
About the Annual Orations
The following is an excerpt from A History of the Worcester District Medical Society 1794 – 1954, by Paul F. Bergin, MD:
“[In] the early days of our society … It has been the custom through the years for an annual paper to be delivered. The title by which this annual paper is dignified is, at first consideration a little oppressive. With the word “Oration” we associate an idea of stately dignity; we think of it as a discourse of weighty matter delivered with power of rhetoric. But this is not so although the Annual Oration is one of the oldest traditions in the life of our Society. The history of our orations begins very vaguely shortly after the Worcester Medical Society was organized. The Annual Address has usually been upon the subjects of the progress of medicine, the relations and duties of the medical profession or some specific disease or drug. The custom of the regular annual discourse started in 1840. Up to this time dissertators, with substitutes, were irregularly appointed and seen with more irregularity still, or several members were appointed by the President to report cases. And even then it often happened that literary entertainment was entirely lacking. In 1838, there were one hundred and ten physicians in the country, seventy of whom were members of the Massachusetts Medical Society and thirty of whom were members of this District Society. In 1878, our district, although including but a fraction of the territory, had a society numbering eighty-four members. At the earlier period the meetings were little more than a formal assembling of the members for the election of officers and the consumption of an ordinary dinner.”