The history of Bluff City Medical Society is intricately intertwined with that of the National Medical Association, and the constant focus of providing health care to all Memphians, especially African-Americans. The rich history of this organization is traced back to its first President, Dr. Miles V. Lynk.
Miles Vandahurst Lynk was born on June 3, 1871 in Brownsville, TN to former slaves who made their living on a small family farm. At the age of 17, Miles taught at some of the rural schools in order to save money for continuing his education. During these times he became interested in medicine and apprenticed under Dr. Jacob Harriston in Brownsville. In 1889 he entered Meharry Medical College. His natural aptitude and high scores quickly caught the attention of the school’s founder Dr. George Whipple and faculty member Dr. Robert Boyd. In 1891, Lynk graduated second in his class. That year he started his practice in Jackson, TN, at that time a city of only 10,000.
On December 1, 1892, Dr. Miles Lynk formally established the first national medical journal for black physicians, “The Medical and Surgical Observer.” This journal focused on black medical issues and offered the latest information available on treatments and professional ethics. It was also used to introduce black physicians in the South and across the nation to each other. The journal concentrated on being a professional medical journal supplying much needed information on black medical enterprises across the nation. Dr. Miles Lynk continued his efforts to educate and organize America’s growing black medical community. His cause received a major boost when the American Medical Association rejected the membership application of the black physician Dr. J.R. Francis. On the afternoon of November 18, 1895, at the Cotton States and International Exposition, a group of 12 black physicians met in the First Congregational Church of Atlanta. These doctors formed The National Association of Colored Physicians, Dentists, and Pharmacists. Dr. Lynk took the post of Vice President, and Dr. Robert Boyd, who Lynk regarded as the leader of the black medical profession became the association’s first president. This organization eventually changed its name to The National Medical Association and became a fixture for the American medical community. In 1900, Dr. Lynk founded and established the University of West Tennessee- a black university headquartered in Jackson, TN, that taught medicine, dentistry, and law. Dr. Lynk eventually earned a law degree and passed the bar exam in Tennessee. He relocated the university to Memphis in 1907. The University boasted 268 graduates in dentistry, law, medicine, and nursing. Many would go to become recognized leaders in their chosen fields. On December 29, 1957, the pioneering physician passed away at the age of 86 in Memphis. He left behind a legacy that not only aided the career of countless black physicians but would also help reorganize medicine throughout America.
Although present history is a little unclear of the exact date Bluff City Medical Society was found, it is estimated in the early 1900’s. It is clear that one of the founders and first president was Dr. Miles Vandahurst Lynk.
In the early 1900’s there were only a few small infirmaries and hospitals opened in Memphis to serve the charity and private patient populations. Dr. Jacob C. Hairston opened the first of these facilities in his home. Other facilities included the Terrell-Patterson Infirmary, the Jane Terrell Baptist Hospital (later renamed the Terrell Memorial Hospital), the Collins Chapel Hospital, the Mercy Hospital and Royal Circle Hospital.
Between 1930 and 1960 the number of African-American physicians practicing in Memphis dropped from 40 to 12. Bluff City Medical Society survived during the 1960s under the presidency of Dr. Clara Brawner, the first female president and first black woman in medicine in Memphis. She served as president and officer of Bluff City Medical Society for 15 years, often times having meetings at her home. The small group of members maintained a strong commitment to patient care and community services. Dr. Brawner, Dr. C.O. Daugherty and others were instrumental in starting the Memphis Health Center Clinic. This facility provided medical care for the surrounding communities and also provided employment for young physicians starting practice. Other physicians who worked closely with Dr. Brawner included Dr. Wheelock A. Bisson and Dr. Edward Reed. In the 1980’s Memphis saw a growth in the number of African-American physicians. Along with the arrival of new physicians came new ideas and more manpower to implement them. Fundraising activities were started and scholarships were given to medical students across the state. Concerned for individual physician health was formalized through the Well Doctor Program. Community involvement was stressed. The effect of political decisions on the practice of medicine was given more attention. The Obesity Initiative was launched with the main goal of educating physicians and the community about this chronic disease. The Bluff City Memorial Lecture series was inaugurated in 2004 to commemorate the achievements of African American physicians who gave unselfishly to their patients and the community.
In 2004, Bluff City Medical Society was chosen as the National Medical Association “Chapter of the Year” in recognition of its outstanding programming, community involvement, and physician recruitment. Additionally, Bluff City has received the Small Chapter of the Year award on several occasions.
Bluff City Medical Society has an impressive history of members who have been or are pioneers, scholars, educators, community and political activists, local, state and national leaders. We are committed to our community and launching initiatives that address chronic medical conditions prevalent in the African American community and eliminating health disparities. We represent a base of over 250 physicians in each medical specialty.