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100 Years Ago Today: Recognizing America's First Board Certified Doctors

Over two cold December days in Memphis, Tennessee, 10 pioneering physicians assembled at the University of Tennessee Medical School to demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and experience in ophthalmology—and set the precedent for excellence in American medicine. The written examination, held on December 13, required candidates to answer a series of questions in embryology, anatomy, pathology, and diseases of the eye. On the second day, candidates participated in an oral clinical-based examination using actual patients from the school’s medical clinic. Final grades were then calculated based on a combination of written and oral examination scores, laboratory experience, and previously reviewed case reports. Seven candidates emerged on December 14 as America’s first board certified doctors. They were Drs. W. Likely Simpson, J.B. Blue, A.C. Lewis, Louis Levey, and J.S.B. Stanford, all of Memphis; W.H. Crisp of Denver; and Mace H. Bell of Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Board also certified Drs. Edward Jackson of Denver, Robert S. Lamb of Washington, D.C., and J.L. Minor of Memphis based on their records. Three additional candidates did not pass and were invited to reappear for a future examination.

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