In 1903, a group of Black physicians, dentists, and pharmacists in Indianapolis formed the Aesculapian Medical Society (AMS). Named after the ancient Greco-Roman god of medicine and healing Asclepius (Aesculapius), the organization was established in response to the refusal of the indianapolis medical society and indiana state medical association to admit Black physicians.

Four men in suits are standing and looking at x-ray images.
W. R. Brown and I. B. Johnson of the Aesculapian Medical Society showing X-rays, ca. 1950s Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

This loosely organized group of medical professionals was more firmly established when Dr. Edwin Moten took over leadership of the society in 1929. By the 1940s, the society’s dentists and pharmacists had left to form their own organizations.

AMS is one of the oldest affiliate chapters of the National Medical Association (NMA). Established in 1895, NMA is the nation’s oldest and largest organization representing African American physicians and health professionals. Programs, policies, and services developed by NMA are implemented at the local level by AMS.

Throughout its history, the Aesculapian Medical Society has focused on professional development, medical education, health policy, public health, and group cohesion and recognition. It has also been committed to self-protection against discriminatory practices within the local medical community. During the 1940s and 1950s, AMS members pushed for the admittance of Black doctors and patients into Indianapolis medical centers. By 1953, all hospitals in the city had agreed to integration.

In the succeeding decades, AMS has supported the continued advances of Black physicians into medical education and hospital administrative positions as well as contributed funds for medical school scholarships for Black students. It has also been committed to improving healthcare and eliminating health disparities for African Americans and other medically underserved populations.

AMS has had a long history of prominent members, including Dr. Joseph H. Ward, Dr. Harvey N. Middleton, Dr. Paul A. Batties, Dr. Edward Moss, Dr. Raymond O. Pierce, Dr. George H. Rawls, and Dr. Mary Bush. Along with their accomplishments in the medical field, these individuals were also important civic leaders in Indianapolis.

The Aesculapian Medical Society welcomes all Indianapolis physicians of color to participate in the organization. In addition to local monthly meetings, AMS members also attend regional and national conferences of the National Medical Association.

Revised February 2021

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