Written by Chris Dalrymple, DC   
Sunday, August 16, 2015 04:49 PM

"The modern medical practice acts, which required graduation from medical school, now placed the licensing function in state agencies, and medical schools no longer could license their graduates."

“Although the licensure acts were challenged in courts because the new laws deprived many existing and potential ’new school practitioners of their right to practice medicine, the 1889 U.S. Supreme Court case of Dent v. West Virginia established that the state has a duty to protect the health, welfare, and safety of its citizens, and that as long as the licensing acts were rationally related to this state duty, they would be upheld.” 

Frank Dent was a physician of the Eclectic sect, a group which accepted and taught the conventional medical science of the time. However, in the area of therapeutics, the Eclectics carried on a rigorous campaign against excesses of drugging and bleeding, which were still practices used by many physicians at the time. In addition, all but one of their medical schools were open to women.

Dent had been in practice for six years when he was convicted under an 1882 West Virginia law which required physicians to hold a degree from a reputable medical college, pass an examination, or prove practice in West Virginia for the previous ten years. In this case, the State Board of Health refused to accept Dent's degree from the American Medical Eclectic College of Cincinnati.

The decision in Dent v. West Virgina led to 10 professional occupations being immediately subject to state licensure in the late 1800s.  By 1920 some 30 occupations were subject to licensure and by 1977, 35 health care professions were licensed in various states. 

Source: The Physician's Perspective on Medical Law, Volume II (1997)