PediatricianLeila Denmark

(Reading Time: < 1 minute)

A medical doctor, Denmark was a pediatrician — and the only woman in her class at the Medical College of Georgia. After her internship, she opened a pediatric clinic in her Atlanta home. Cost of an office visit: $4. When whooping cough (pertussis) broke out in Atlanta, she helped to research the disease, and co-developed a vaccine for it, earning her the Fisher Prize. She was a plain-spoken doctor. “When a mother asks, ‘Doctor, what makes my baby so bad?’” she was likely to answer, “Go look in the mirror. You get apples off apple trees,” Denmark told People magazine a few years ago. She loved her work: by the time she retired, her office visit charge had only made it up to $10. “You keep on doing what you do best, as long as you can,” Denmark said. “I enjoyed every minute of it for more than 70 years. If I could live it over again, I’d do exactly the same thing.”

Wait: 70 years? Actually, that’s not true: she practiced for 73 years — she graduated medical school in 1928, and didn’t retire until she was 103, and even then it was only due to her failing eyesight; she gave advice over the phone for seven more years after that. By her retirement she had treated many of the grandchildren, and even some great-grandchildren, of her early patients. She attributed her longevity to never eating sugar, drinking only water (fruits were for eating, never juice), and having protein and a vegetable at every meal. Dr. Denmark died April 1 at 114 — she was the fourth-oldest person known in the world.

From This is True for 8 April 2012