So, yesterday, I uncovered the fact that Emmett’s father, Dr. Frank Wilson, may have been operating — literally — for years, without a medical credential.
I thought I had this big ‘get’, but no. It turns out he wasn’t breaking any laws. Hell, back then, if you wanted to be a doctor, why just hang out your shingle, get a white lab coat, and some pharmaceuticals like heroin or codeine (which you could just get at the pharmacy over the counter anyway), and you were good to go.
The problem was, a lot of unqualified people did just that, and caused a lot of harm. There were good doctors out there — Dr. Wilson happened to be one of them — but boyoboy, there was plenty of opportunity for abuse in the profession. Imagine: In 1875, some guy could set up a doctor’s office with a ‘specialty’ in bosoms, no experience necessary. It boggles the mind. But I digress.
I confirmed all of this with a colleague at the University of Louisville medical school archive; she also told me that different states started licensing physicians at different times (i.e., Kentucky started requiring physician licenses around 1906). It seems that state medical boards were starting to keep tabs on their brethren physicians, and tighten up the profession as a whole at the end of the 19th century. Perhaps Dr. Wilson could see that coming. Also, if he was competing with other physicians for business in a small town, it definitely would be to his benefit to have the medical school credential.
Still, I’m curious about the timing here — why did he wait until 1891 to go back and finish medical school?
Curiouser and curiouser.