Rae Young Bond, executive director of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society, told the Civitan Club on Friday, "From the very beginning, we've been concerned about community health."
In fact, improving public health in the area was one of the main reasons the Chattanooga Medical Society was founded.
Ms. Bond detailed the organization's history, starting with its creation in 1883 when only around 13,000 people lived in Chattanooga.
She said at the time, "only a handful of the doctors practicing actually had an M.D. degree." Diseases such as smallpox and cholera were also ravaging the area.
The organization also launched a campaign to promote polio immunization in 1963 and helped vaccinate 35,000 children against rubella in 1970.
More recently, Ms. Bond said the challenges they face are not as much from disease as from lifestyle.
She said, "the majority of premature death in our county is actually self-inflicted," whether it comes from obesity or drugs and alcohol. The medical society works to promote healthy lifestyles.
For example, she said, "Riverbend now has some small designated smoking areas, but we're trying to move for it to become a non smoking venue."
Another important area her organization works with is medical legislations.
She said, "There were more than 300 bills passed that influenced the way medicine was practiced. Most legislators except those that are doctors should not be trying to practice medicine."
She continued, "We work really hard to stop bad ideas, and I'm proud of that."
Ms. Bond also pointed out that the Project Access program started by the Chattanooga Medical Society has been nationally recognized.
Through volunteering physicians and community donations, the program has been able to provide some $115.4 million in donated care to uninsured Hamilton County residents since 2004.
Ms. Bond said that while health insurance options have increased, some of the lowest-income residents still cannot afford care.
She said of the project in the past, "We are blessed by an extraordinary medical community that has an unwavering commitment to patients and to this community."