The Maricopa County Medical Society was founded in February of 1892. The lack of any clear medical standards for practice, the lack of licensing criteria, and the need to share medical solutions to the pressing problems of frontier healthcare, were the motivating factors for the birth of this physician organization.
The territory of Arizona has a rich history in medical care and many excellent books have been written concerning the activities of physicians in general and those of the Maricopa County Medical Society in particular. The Medical Society has financed three such recent publications; one by John W. Kennedy, M.D. entitled Arizona Medicine-Historical Essays, another authored by Robert Kravetz, MD entitled Hucksters, Healers and Heroes, and a third authored by Robert Kravetz, MD entitled Healthseekers in Arizona.
The Medical Society as well as the State of Arizona continued its deliberate pace during World Wars I and II, but following the end World War II, the population in the state, and in Phoenix particularly, started to grow at an astounding rate. Among the thousands who flocked to this state after World War II for the weather and the wide-open spaces were hundreds of physicians seeking to establish a practice.
The need to organize the physicians into an effective group became a primary goal of the Maricopa County Medical Society. In 1950 they started a search for their first full time paid staff member, which resulted in the hiring of Fred Mitten in early 1951 as the first Executive Secretary of the Maricopa County Medical Society.
In those days, the Medical Society was housed in what was then referred to as the Professional Building, a twelve-story office building on the corner of Central and Monroe. The first three floors housed the Valley National Bank and the next eight floors housed the most prominent physicians and dentists in the city with the twelfth floor being shared by the Medical Society and the heating and cooling equipment for the building!
In addition to establishing the Medical Society as a political and medical power, Fred Mitten realized the need to establish businesses to serve the physician members of the association. Beginning in 1951, the following events concerning the Society took place:
1. The Bureau of Medical Economics, a licensed collection agency was established in 1951. BME was created to provide a legitimate, effective and ethical agency for physicians to use in the collection of delinquent medical accounts. This organization continues today and processes millions of dollars in delinquent accounts annually.
2. In 1952 the Society, Medical Library & Bureau moved from offices in the Professional Building to 2025 North Central Avenue. The organization remained at that location until 1986 when the current building at 326 East Coronado was built.
3. In 1953 the Society established the first physician Telephone Answering Service, which at its peak served over 1100 physicians in the area. The Medical Society was also one of the first Societies in the country to receive a license to use a special emergency radio frequency to operate its paging system. Both the answering service and the paging system were sold in the early 80's as technology made them increasingly less viable to operate.
4. In 1961 the Doctors Office Placement Service was established to supply physician’s offices with qualified personnel. Since known as the Medical Society Placement Service, this organization, after 49 years of operation, closed on December 31, 2009. At its peak, it was one of the largest licensed placement agencies dealing solely with medical placement in Maricopa County.
5. In 1962 the Southwestern Preparatory School was founded to train staff for physician offices, hospitals and other medical facilities. This school for medical assistants graduated thousands of students over the years and was sold in 1987, allowing the Society to concentrate on other functions of more direct interest to physicians.
6. In 1969 the Maricopa County Medical Society incorporated the Maricopa Foundation For Medical Care to offer a fee-for-service, competitive healthcare delivery system to employees in Maricopa County. This organization has grown as a separate corporation with its own physician Board of Trustees from 800 physician members in 1970, to over 6000 physicians in 2000, and over 14,000 in 2012. As a managed care system the Foundation endorses plans which cover over a quarter of million Arizonans throughout the state. In December 1994 the Foundation purchased a building on Third Street to house its ever-growing divisions. In 1998 the Foundation’s name was changed to Arizona Foundation for Medical Care reflecting the fact that coverage and membership now spanned the entire state of Arizona.
7. In 1987 the Society established the Greater Arizona Centralized Credentialing Program (GACCP) to offer a systemized approach to physician credential verification. This program was designed to serve all the hospitals and healthcare facilities in the state, as well as the managed care programs who wish to credential their physicians throughout the area. Currently GACCP has service contracts with over a hundred hospitals, managed care organizations and other facilities.
In addition to the above businesses, the Medical Society has been active in such worthwhile medical pursuits as coordinating the first mass polio immunization project in the United States in 1962 called Sabin Oral Sundays.
The Society has also been instrumental in assisting with the development of free clinics for the medically indigent and has staffed Head Start Health Fairs where over 300 physicians volunteer their time to perform physicals on more than 20,000 children. The Society has also been influential in legislative issues on behalf of physicians. The Society, in conjunction with ArMA, helped pass House Bill 2600 and lobbied for physicians with a limited license to be able to practice medicine in Arizona.
The Medical Society and its businesses plan to develop services and ideas to benefit medicine and the community in the years to come.