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Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte – #DiversityInHealthcare

Diversity in Healthcare

Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte was a doctor, public health advocate, and social reformer widely recognized as the first Indigenous woman to obtain a medical degree in the U.S. Dr. La Flesche Picotte was born in the Omaha reservation in 1865, the youngest daughter of Joseph La Flesche, the last recognized Chief of the Omaha tribe.

During her studies at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (WMPC), Dr. La Flesche Picotte was sponsored by the Connecticut Indian Association (CIA) throughout her medical program and overcame societal and racial discrimination to become valedictorian, graduating at the top of her class in 1889.

Throughout her career, Dr. La Flesche Picotte worked for the Office of Indian Affairs (1889-1983) as the physician for the boarding school, was an active community advocate, and traveled in and around the reservation making house calls for community members.

She was an active social reformer and public health advocate, strongly in favor of temperance and even advocated for a prohibition law that would impact the Omaha tribe. Dr. La Flesche Picotte was a proponent of preventive care and worked on educating her community on hygiene and food sanitation, both for general health and to help prevent the spread of tuberculosis. She also helped tribal members with inheritance issues they experienced, specifically with regard to land sales.

Dr. La Flesche Picotte went on to establish the Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte Memorial Hospital, the first privately-funded hospital on the Omaha reservation that went on to serve the tribal community until the 1940s. Today, the building stands as a National Historic Landmark and serves as a reminder of the amazing work of Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte.

Info source: The Incredible Legacy of Susan La Flesche, the First Native American to Earn a Medical Degree, Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte, Susan La Flesche Picotte, and Susan La Flesche Picotte, M.D.: Omaha Indian leader and reformer.

Photo source: Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte