Kenneth Merrill Lynch, M.D.
The Birth of the Medical Center
Kenneth Merrill Lynch was responsible for the building of the Medical University Hospital and launching this Medical College into the 20th century.
Dr. Lynch was born in Hamilton County, Texas, on November 28, 1887. His lineage was Scotch-Irish, and he was brought up in stock raising: cattle, horses, and sheep. He was an expert horseman. He received his medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch of Galveston and went into practice at Amarillo for a brief period. He was then called by the dean of the medical school at Galveston and offered a residency in pathology at what is now Philadelphia General Hospital, associated with the University of Pennsylvania. In a little brick building near the hospital which was known as Blockey, he performed autopsies. He wrote his autopsy findings in a leather-bound ledger at Blockey where Dr. William Osler had also transcribed autopsies, a fact of which he was very proud.
His association with the Medical College of South Carolina started in 1913, when he arrived to serve as Professor of Pathology and the first full-time faculty member. His service to the Medical College extended over a period of nearly 50 years. He served as vice-dean to the Medical College from 1935 to 1943; as dean from 1943 to 1949; and as President and Dean of the Faculty from 1949 to 1960. In 1960, he was appointed Professor Emeritus of Pathology and Chancellor.
With only nominal government support and very little staff assistance, Dr. Lynch was active as a scientific investigator. He published some 118 papers in medical, scientific, and educational periodicals. He was a pioneer investigator of industrial diseases of the chest, particularly asbestosis. He published his first full description of kaolinosis and reported the first recorded case of cancer of the lung associated with asbestosis, in collaboration with Dr. William Atmar Smith.
Dr. Lynch was a consummate politician. He was equally at home in the political arena or in the scientific forum. Blessed with persuasive charm, a keen sense of humor, and patient logic, he could ameliorate confrontations and bring resolution or compromise to difficult proceedings.
In the words of one colleague, he could “charm a rattlesnake out of a tree.” He forged an association with State Senator Edgar A. Brown, long-time chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. This rapport enabled him to retain his appropriation requests intact, and over a period of ten years, his requests were never refused.
Besides the Medical College, he had three other devotions. Always an outdoorsman, Dr. Lynch was an ardent hunter, being particularly fond of deer hunting. Living in Summerville, he loved his garden and showed great partiality for camellias, frequently adorning his secretaries’ desks with bowls of blooms. He also established a colony of the only pure strain of wild turkeys ever raised in close captivity.
Dr. Lynch possessed Churchillian clairvoyance. When it became apparent that the Medical College had to make a bid for independence and become a truly 20th century medical school by having its own teaching hospital and an enlarged full-time faculty, he committed his energies virtually full-time to bring this dream to fruition. The Medical College Hospital was dedicated on May 10, 1955, and went into operation on September 26, 1955, with the blessing of President Harry S. Truman and Senator Lister Hill. Lynch was also actively engaged in negotiation with the Veterans Administration and paved the way for the Veterans Hospital in Charleston.
For more information about the history of MUSC, contact the Waring Historical Library.