Mahlon Dickerson Ogden (1881–1947)

Mahlon Dickerson (M. D.) Ogden was a physician who cofounded Trinity Hospital of Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1923. At Trinity, he pioneered the use of the health maintenance organization (HMO)—a form of health insurance in which member physicians provide medical care to subscribers for a fixed fee—in Arkansas.

Born on December 5, 1881, in Little Rock, M. D. Ogden was the only son of railroad clerk Charles Cullen Ogden and his wife, Altamira Deason Ogden. An older cousin, Fred R. Bryson, was adopted into the family and became Ogden’s legal brother.

Educated in the local schools, Ogden graduated from the Arkansas Medical School (now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences) in 1904. From 1905 to 1916, he taught pathology and gynecology at the medical school.

In 1907, he married Sue Peay Worthen of Little Rock, who was a daughter of banker William Booker Worthen. The couple had four children.

In about 1916, he partnered with fellow medical school faculty members Augustine Mathias Zell and Orange King Judd to establish a private group practice in Little Rock. By 1921, their practice included partners James Isaac Scarborough and Robert Booth Moore, who were also medical school faculty members.

During World War I, Ogden served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, attaining the rank of major. After the war, he returned to Little Rock and resumed practicing medicine.

After cofounding Trinity Hospital in 1923, Ogden, Judd, Zell, Scarborough, and Moore operated it as a fee-for-service institution until the Great Depression of the 1930s. During the Depression, some American physicians, including Ogden, viewed health insurance as a means to achieve greater income security for themselves and affordability for patients. In 1931, under Ogden’s leadership, Trinity’s physicians implemented an “Agreement for Annual Medical Service” HMO. Their HMO offered subscribers (excluding African Americans) coverage for a wide range of medical services. In 1937, addressing the Twelfth Annual Conference of the Association of Clinic Managers, Ogden argued that successful prepayment plans should help patients afford medical care.

Among their fellow Pulaski County Medical Society (PCMS) members, Ogden and his partners’ use of the HMO was controversial. In the early 1930s, the PCMS joined most members of American organized medicine in opposing HMOs, labeling them an unethical form of contract practice. In 1931, despite Ogden’s insistence that the Trinity HMO was mutually satisfactory for both the patients and the physicians, the PCMS censured him and the other Trinity physicians. Following their resignations from the society, Ogden and his colleagues continued to use the HMO at Trinity.

In the early 1940s, Ogden served as president of the Group Health Federation of America (now America’s Health Insurance Plans) trade association.

Ogden died on September 3, 1947, at his home in Little Rock. He is buried in Mount Holly Cemetery. At the time of his death, he and the other Trinity physicians were in the process of rejoining the PCMS. In 1948, following the merger of their HMO with the Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance plan, the surviving Trinity physicians rejoined the PCMS.

For additional information:
America’s Health Insurance Plans. (accessed January 24, 2020).

“Another Medical Society Proposed.” Arkansas Gazette, August 7, 1931, p. 17.

Baird, W. David. Medical Education in Arkansas, 1879–1978. Memphis: Memphis State University Press, 1979.

“County Medical Society Defended.” Arkansas Gazette, August 6, 1931, pp. 1, 15.

“Dr. Ogden, Sr. Reelected by Health Group.” Arkansas Gazette, June 7, 1942, p. 9.

“Dr. Mahlon D. Ogden Dies.” Arkansas Gazette, September 4, 1947, p. 17.

Klem, Margaret. “Medical Services Provided Under Prepayment Arrangements at Trinity Hospital, Little Rock, Arkansas, 1941.” Social Security Bulletin (May 1947): 3–9.

Klem, Margaret, Helen Hollingsworth, and Zelma A. Miser. “Medical and Hospital Services Provided under Prepayment Arrangements, Trinity Hospital, Little Rock, Arkansas, 1941–42.” Federal Security Agency, Bureau of Research and Statistics Memorandum No. 69. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1948.

Klem, Margaret. “Prepaid Medical Care at Trinity Hospital, Little Rock, Arkansas, 1941–1942.” Social Security Bulletin (September 1949): 8–15.

M. D. Ogden Collection, 1855–1936. Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Ogden, Mahlon D. “Contract Medical Practice.” In Association of Clinic Managers Proceedings of the Twelfth Annual Conference, September 23-24, 1937, Sheboygan, Wis. Vol. 1. St. Louis, Missouri, 1937.

Walls, Edwina. “The Introduction of Prepayment Medicine to Arkansas: The Trinity Hospital Experience.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 42 (Spring 1983): 3–26.

Melanie K. Welch
Mayflower, Arkansas


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