Massachusetts Medical Society: First African-American Physician Joined MMS 163 Years Ago

First African-American Physician Joined MMS 163 Years Ago



MMS member was the first African-American physician to join a medical society

This week in 1854, John Van Surly DeGrasse, MD, became the first African-American physician to be admitted to a medical society—the MMS. John DeGrasse was born in 1825 in New York City. He became the second African-American to receive a medical diploma in the US, subsequently studying with the renowned French surgeon Alfred Velpeau, then establishing his own practice in Boston. Dr. DeGrasse was an active abolitionist and organized vigilante groups to intercept slave hunters in Boston. In 1863, he became a commissioned physician with the Union Army, one of only eight black surgeons to serve in the Union Medical Corps. Dr. DeGrasse received a gold-hilted sword from MA Governor John A. Andrew in appreciation of his Civil War service. He died in 1868 of unknown causes, aged 43. This biographical information is drawn from, which provides more details.

Students and residents with IT projects: Can you use an extra $3,000? 

Each year, the MMS Committee on Information Technology recognizes a medical student and a member of a hospital house staff or training program for information technology solutions in medicine. The two Medical Information Technology Awards are presented annually for functioning projects, substantially completed in the past year, that use technology to assist physicians in the practice of medicine, the teaching of medicine, or the pursuit of clinical research; more info and application.

Apply this month for an LGBT health disparities grant

The MMS Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Research Grants fund projects that advance the quality, access, and equity of health care services for LGBT patients in Massachusetts. The grant can be used in curriculum development or to produce research that addresses LGBT health disparities. Four awards, each up to $4,000, are granted to qualified MMS medical students and residents/fellows members from Massachusetts institutions. The proposal deadline is October 2, 2017. Download the application form with more information about the grant. Questions? Contact Erin Tally at or (781) 434-7413.

Apppintments, awards, publications? Share your news with MMS members

Vital Signs, the monthly print and online newsletter of the MMS, is now listing your professional news — such as joining a new hospital, opening a practice, or a recent promotion — and your other achievements: board appointments, awards, speaking engagements, community outreach, or published works. We are currently seeking submissions for the October issue of Vital Signs. Please include your full name and title, medical school with graduation year, residency institution, hospital affiliation, recent update, and a high-resolution headshot. Send submissions to by September 8, 2017.

Boston conference on counter-terrorism medicine

Large-scale terrorist events, such as the Boston marathon bombing, have a major impact on local and state medical systems. The second annual French-American Conference on Emergency Medicine will look at the impacts of emergencies and disasters on pre-hospital functioning and emergency department operations and care, focusing on mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. The faculty includes experts from Harvard Medical School, Europe, Florida, and California, who have leadership experience in recent disasters and terror-based events. The conference, offered by BIDMC, is designed for physicians, nurses, paramedics, EMTs, and government and hospital emergency management staff. It will be held October 11–13, 2017, in Boston;  further information, including CME accreditation, and registration. The event is directed by Ritu Sarin, MD, director of education at BIDMC and vice-chair of the MMS Committee on Preparedness, and Richard Wolfe, MD.

What's up at the State House

MMS weighs in on MassHealth proposals

The Medical Society submitted comment on Monday to MassHealth regarding an amendment it filed to the federal government seeking authority to implement further changes to its Medicaid program. The Medical Society conveyed concerns about proposed changes to the MassHealth pharmacy formulary by providing the agency with a series of principles which should guide any changes to the pharmacy benefits policy, such as the importance of physician input in the formulary design, of transparency to patients and physicians, and to a robust appeals process. The Medical Society also opposed proposals to further narrow the networks of the MassHealth PCC plans.

Reminders: Stuff you should click on

Coming soon: MMS survey on Medical Aid-In-Dying

In September, MMS members will receive an important survey on their opinions regarding medical aid-in-dying, also referred to as physician-assisted suicide. Watch your email, or contact if you prefer a paper copy. When you complete this 15–20 minute survey, you will receive free access to one MMS end-of-life focused online CME program, which can be applied toward the two CME credits in end-of-life care required of Massachusetts physicians in each licensing cycle. These credits may also be used toward meeting risk management survey requirements. Thank you in advance for your participation.

Build confident communication skills at the MMS Women's Leadership Forum

Join us on Friday, September 15,, 2017, at the forum for Confident Communication: Achieving Socially Intelligent Leadership. Experienced physician leaders and educators will share practical tools for strategic communication and handling challenging conversations. Confident communication will enhance personal satisfaction and attaining professional advancement. The forum is at the MMS headquarters in Waltham, sponsored by the Committee on Women in Medicine; learn more and register.

PPRC Talks: Crucial Conversations in an Era of Transition

Join us for this free, livestreamed event. Our two moderated panels will answer these questions:

  • How can you truly engage physicians as part of the health care delivery team? How can you empower physicians at the practice management and care delivery level? And how can patients become more active and engaged participants in the care process, promoting shared decision-making and improved outcomes?
  • What are the current and future models of physician compensation? What's the role and nature of negotiating, performance incentives, and other emerging compensation mechanisms? This panel features practice management consultants and compensation law experts.

For the first time, PPRC Talks will be webinar-only, to facilitate your participation. The event will be held on September 29, 2017, 10:00 a.m.– noon; more information and registration.

Prepare to enjoy your retirement

There are many key considerations when retiring from a life of medical practice. Network and engage with retired member physicians and MMS experts to learn how to plan ahead for a smooth, less stressful transition. Join us for the free event on the evening of September 20, 2017, at MMS headquarters, Waltham. Spouses and partners are welcome. This event is hosted by the Committee on Senior Physicians; learn more and register.

Benefit Buzz: Safeguard your medical license

In the event of a Board of Registration in Medicine complaint or investigation, you can have legal assistance through the Legal Advisory Plan. This valuable benefit is a member-only, low-cost legal service. Don't miss your opportunity to take advantage of it. Learn more and enroll.

Educational programs and events

Unless otherwise noted, all events are held at MMS headquarters, 860 Winter St., Waltham, MA. View our full calendar of upcoming live CME activities.

Norfolk County Safe Prescribing and Dispensing Conferences

September 14, 2017, 8:00 a.m.–3:30 p.m.; Randolph, MA
Open to all Norfolk County registered prescribers and pharmacists

The above activity has been approved for AMA PRA Category 1 Credit

Featured Online CME Courses – Risk Management Credit

The above activities have been approved for AMA PRA Category 1 Credit

Find additional risk management online CME activities.

This week in health care

Sign up for daily roundups of health news affecting Massachusetts.

(Newly retired) Mercy Med. Center employee wins Powerball 
The 53-year-old mother of two lottery winner has worked at Mercy Medical Center for 32 years. She called the hospital Thursday morning and said she was taking early retirement. 

Springfield's UMass Medical School Baystate campus welcomes first students 
The new program fulfills a long-held local dream of expanding medical education in Springfield. Through the "PURCH Track" — an acronym for Population-based Urban and Rural Community Health — the campus offers "a new pathway for medical students with an interest in under-served rural and urban communities." 

Cambridge gene therapy firm Dimension Therapeutics to be acquired 
, which went public in 2015, announced plans to lay off 25 percent of its staff in June by the end of 2017. The move came after the company scrapped its lead treatment aimed at hemophilia B in January following trial results that showed serious safety concerns. 

MA far behind in telemedicine
Notwithstanding our reputation as a health care leader, Massachusetts is even further behind than most. We are one of only two statesthat don't mandate telemedicine access for all Medicaid recipients.

Baker names first member of marijuana oversight committee
State Sen. Jennifer Flanagan will resign her role at the State House to become one of five members on the state's cannabis oversight authority. Gov. Charlie Baker named Flanagan as his appointment to the Cannabis Control Commission, which is responsible for regulating and overseeing the adult and medical marijuana markets.

US Sens. Ed Markey, Elizabeth Warren look to ban menthol cigarettes
Contending that research has shown  menthol cigarettes pose a greater public health risk than other types of cigarettes, US Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, called on federal officials to ban them. 

MA psychiatrist told to stop using private info in blog
The controversial psychiatrist who testified at the infamous Michelle Carter trial has been ordered to stop blogging about any information from the confidential, impounded medical records of victim Conrad Roy III by a frustrated judge who threatened to hold anyone who flouts the ruling in contempt. 

UMass researchers find weight loss not necessary for joint surgery
Dr. Franklin said that to minimize risk of infection, doctors will continue to recommend weight loss for overweight and obese patients in anticipation of total joint replacement surgery. But she said the study should help patients and their doctors make a more informed decision about whether, and when, to undergo total joint replacement. 

#2069 movement helps shed new light on opioid crisis
The number represents every Massachusetts resident whose death was attributed to opioids in 2016. "Whoever could get their hands on the signs are getting the signs," Deputy Wrentham Police Chief William McGrath said. The signs are the latest weapon in the painful battle against opioid addiction and were designed by Trinity Episcopal Church in Wrentham.

Layoffs likely averted due to buyouts at Brigham and Women's Hospital
Partners HealthCare Chief Financial Officer Peter Markell said that enough people have agreed to take some sort of buyout to avoid any future staff reductions. A spokesman later clarified that while layoffs are unlikely, "it's unclear what, if any, additional steps will be required."

Reliant, Fallon in, UMass out of ACOs 
Reliant and Fallon announced their plan to form a providers group known as an accountable care organization or ACO to be called Fallon 365 Care. Each ACO will be part of MassHealth, the state Medicaid program that is being reformed with the new organizations.

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