The Brown Medical Association (officially the Brown University Medical Association) was begun at a meeting held on November 9, 1811 by Dr. William Ingalls, professor in the recently established medical lectures, and six other doctors. Membership was limited to those who had received tickets of admission to the medical lectures. The medical professors were members ex officio, and there were also honorary members to whom the privilege of attending meetings was extended. Meetings were held Saturday evenings during the course of the lectures. At each meeting questions for the next were proposed. Among the subjects discussed were “Does electricity have any effect in producing organic life? Have the arteries any power in promoting the circulation of blood independent of the heart? What is the proximate cause of fever?” At some meetings dissertations by various members were delivered. The minutes of the society continue until 1825, with a break between September 1816 and May 1823. The last entry is “Adjourned to the first Saturday eve, in the next course.” The names of 158 members are recorded. Annotations such as “Gospel minister,” “Merchant,” and “Lawyer” after names indicate that not all the members were doctors or medical students.
One hundred and fifty years later a different type of Brown Medical Association was formed in 1974 in connection with the new medical program. This one, open to all physicians who hold undergraduate degrees from Brown and to members of the biomedical faculty, has the mission of interpreting the medical program to friends of the University, recruiting medical students and helping them with training opportunities, and helping to procure financial support for the Program in Medicine. At its annual banquet the Association presents its W. W. Keen award, named for Dr. William Williams Keen 1859, to an alumnus or faculty member for exceptional contributions to medicine, the community and Brown.