Health care reformer Dr. Michael Shadid speaks to future founders of Group Health Cooperative in Seattle on August 14, 1945.

  • By HistoryLink Staff
  • Posted 8/09/2005
  • Essay 7411
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On August 14, 1945, Dr. Michael Shadid (1882-1966), a pioneering health care reformer, speaks at Seattle's Roosevelt Hotel to some 50 people, including the future founders of Group Health Cooperative. Dr. Shadid is the founder of the nation's first cooperatively owned and managed hospital, which is located in Elk City, Oklahoma. He is a crusader whose mission is to overthrow the traditional fee-for-service practice of medicine dominated by solo practitioners, expensive specialists, and private hospitals and clinics. Instead he advocates affordable, prepaid healthcare through the cooperative ownership of hospitals staffed by physicians -- practicing as a group -- who promote the new idea of "preventive" medicine. Dr Shadid is brought on a speaking tour of Seattle and towns in Eastern Washington, Idaho, and Oregon by future Group Health founders Addison "Ad" Shoudy (1900-1993), manager of Puget Sound Cooperative, a West Seattle grocery, and R. M. "Bob" Mitchell (d. 1947), founder of the giant Pacific Supply Co. Coop established in Walla Walla in 1933.

Dr. Shadid's Life and Work

Michael Shadid was born in a village on the eastern slope of Mount Lebanon, then part of the Ottoman Empire. He was the last of 12 children borne by his mother, of whom only three survived past infancy. By the time, at age 16, he left Beirut to live with relatives in the United States, he had decided to become a doctor, inspired by the extreme poverty of his neighbors, and by a missionary physician at Beirut's American University.

He earned his way through Washington University in St. Louis by selling jewelry from door to door. He graduated in 1906 and his first practice was making rounds in rural Missouri on horseback, as assistant to the local general practitioner. He married his childhood betrothed and moved to Oklahoma two years later.

He took some specialty courses in Chicago, and while there joined Eugene Debs's Socialist Party. Socialist comrades in Oklahoma (a state that had delivered a third of its votes to leftist candidates in recent elections), advised him to set up a clinic in Carter, "where every other man is a socialist" (Crowley, 4). His clinic prospered and he earned enough to make a trip home in 1929. He was appalled by the poverty he saw in Lebanon, which was equalled by the poverty he had seen among Missouri and Oklahoma farmers.

Firsts in Consumer-Oriented Hospitals

Upon his return, he founded America's first cooperative hospital, in Elk City, Oklahoma, in 1931, financed by the Oklahoma Farmers' Union. He continued crusading for his entire life, and was an important catalyst to the founding of Washington state's Group Health Cooperative.

His presentation at Roosevelt Hotel in Seattle was part of a speaking tour financed by Walla Walla's Pacific Supply Co. Coop. Dr. Shadid addressed more than 2,000 activists and citizens across the state. Farmers' granges had been discussing the idea of applying the cooperative idea to hospitals and health care, and Dr. Shahid's biggest audience was at the Renton Grange Hall.

On this trip, the doctor helped launch a short-lived health co-op in Deer Park, near Spokane, advised the Kitsap County Cooperative Hospital Association, and assisted the organizing committee that led to the formation of Group Health Cooperative.

Sources: Walt Crowley, To Serve the Greatest Number: A History of Group Health Cooperative of Seattle (Seattle: GHC/University of Washington Press, 1995), 3-7; Michael Shadid, Crusading Doctor (Boston: The Meador Press, 1961).

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