Entry Category: Medicine

Jones, Edith Irby

Edith Irby Jones was the first African American to attend and to graduate from the University of Arkansas Medical School, now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Not only was she a pioneer in the desegregation of higher education in Arkansas and the South, but she also served as a highly successful doctor, educator, and philanthropist in Arkansas, Texas, and overseas. Edith Irby was born on December 23, 1927, near Conway (Faulkner County) to Robert Irby, a sharecropper, and Mattie Buice Irby, a maid. Her father died when she was eight, and the family moved to Hot Springs (Garland County). Irby’s older sister died of typhoid fever at the age of twelve, largely …

Jones, Fred Thomas

Fred Thomas Jones Sr. was a physician and pioneer in providing insurance and medical care to African Americans in Arkansas and Louisiana. Fred T. Jones was born on September 8, 1877, in Homer, Louisiana, the oldest of eleven children born to Fred R. Jones, a farmer, and Harriett E. Jones, a housewife. In 1904, Jones married Hattie McGraw. The couple had a daughter but divorced soon after. Three years later, in 1907, he married Katie Chandler. They had seven children—five daughters and two sons. After attending Claiborne Parish School at Bishop College in Marshall, Texas, and the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, Jones graduated from Arkansas Branch Normal College (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff) between 1900 and 1904, …

Jordan, Lena Lowe

Lena Lowe Jordan was an African-American registered nurse and hospital administrator who managed two institutions for African Americans—a hospital for the care of crippled children, which later became a general hospital. In addition, she began a unique training program for young black women who wanted to become practical nurses. Lena Lowe was born on April 6, 1884, in Georgia, to Hollin and Martha Lowe. She spent her childhood in Georgia and then trained as a nurse at the Charity Hospital of Savannah. She moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) from Cordele, Georgia, in the 1920s and began her career as a registered nurse in Arkansas as head nurse at the Mosaic State Templars Hospital in 1927. In 1920, she became …

Jordan, Wilbert Cornelius

Wilbert Cornelius Jordan started the Oasis Clinic in Los Angeles, California, in 1979. This clinic treated some of the first patients who suffered from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), before the disease had even been clinically observed. Over the next two decades, Jordan treated more than 3,000 clinically diagnosed HIV/AIDS patients. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2000. A Los Angeles native, Wilbert C. Jordan was born on September 11, 1944, and grew up in Arkansas. He attended Marian Anderson High School in Brinkley (Monroe County) before entering Horace Mann High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) for his final year, graduating in 1961. He graduated from Harvard University in …

Kaplan, Regina

Nurse, teacher, and healthcare innovator Regina Kaplan was the hospital administrator and director of the nursing school at the Leo N. Levi Memorial Hospital in Hot Springs (Garland County) for thirty-five years. She was active in national and community organizations, and has been called Arkansas’s “Lady with the Lamp.” Regina Kaplan was born on May 12, 1887, in Memphis, Tennessee, the third of five children of German immigrants Gershon Kaplan and Adella Hannah Traube Kaplan. Her father had been a school teacher in Germany. The family moved to Denver for her mother’s health. Unable to afford medical school to become a doctor, at age seventeen, Kaplan entered Denver’s Mercy Hospital Training School for Nursing. She graduated in 1908 at the …

Kimbrough, Wilson Whitaker, Jr.

Wilson Whitaker Kimbrough Jr. made distinctive contributions to society through his efforts to professionalize law enforcement in Arkansas. He is considered the father of police and criminal psychology in Arkansas and one of the founders of police and criminal psychology in the United States. Throughout his professional career, he actively supported many mental health initiatives in northwest Arkansas and, as a Washington County Quorum Court member, led in the development of prototype job evaluation and salary administration programs. Wilson Kimbrough Jr., the first son of Lydia Reed and Wilson W. Kimbrough Sr., was born on March 29, 1926, on the family farm northeast of Springdale (Washington County). Both his parents were members of pioneer families of the county and were educators …

Kountz, Samuel Lee, Jr.

Samuel Lee Kountz Jr. was a physician and pioneer in organ transplantation, particularly renal transplant research and surgery. An Arkansas success story, he overcame the limitations of his childhood as an African American in the Delta region of a racially segregated state to achieve national and world prominence in the medical field. Sam Kountz was born on October 20, 1930, in Lexa (Phillips County) to the Reverend J. S. Kountz, a Baptist minister, and his wife, Emma. He was the eldest of three sons. Kountz lived in a small town with an inadequate school system in one of the most impoverished regions of the state. He attended a one-room school in Lexa until the age of fourteen, at which point …

Kumpuris, Michael Nicholas (Mike), Jr.

Michael Nicholas (Mike) Kumpuris Jr., a longtime resident of Little Rock (Pulaski County) and later of Bryant (Saline County), worked for forty-one years at St. Vincent Infirmary (now CHI St. Vincent Infirmary) in Little Rock. He was initially given a position as part of the crusade to fight polio in 1952 by the infirmary executive at the time, Sister Margaret Vincent Blandford. In 1954, Kumpuris was asked to create their initial physical therapy clinic, where he was engaged in state government regulations for licensure of Arkansas’s physical therapy practitioners, which was an innovation for the state.  Mike Kumpuris was born on March 26, 1927, in El Dorado (Union County) to Lucille Wright Kumpuris and Michael N. Kumpuris Sr. In 1944, while attending Little Rock Central High School, he played offensive tackle and won all-state honors. His team went on to win the state football championship for Coach …

Lawrence, William M.

William M. Lawrence was a prominent physician in Batesville (Independence County) from 1848 until his death. He was appointed the surgeon general of the state of Arkansas in 1881. William Lawrence was born on November 22, 1826, in Kentucky, the son of James McKinney Lawrence and his first wife, Lucy D. Martin Lawrence, who was from Missouri. He had two brothers (one of them a son to his father’s second wife, Margaret Ann Vaunter Lawrence) and three sisters. Lawrence moved with his family to Fulton, Missouri, when he was a young child. About 1843, he began “reading medicine” under Dr. Robert Blakely in Fulton. He attended medical school at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, studying under Dr. Joseph McDowell. Following …

Levi Hospital

aka: Leo N. Levi Hospital
Levi Hospital in Hot Springs (Garland County) is a nonprofit hospital that offers mental and physical therapy. Its mission is to provide specialty care for the residents of Hot Springs and surrounding communities, serving patients without regard to race, religion, creed, national origin, gender, age, disability, or economic means. It has a history of providing services to people regardless of their ability to pay. Levi Hospital is the only healthcare provider in Garland County that provides inpatient adult psychiatric services as well as rehabilitation therapy in the thermal waters of Hot Springs National Park. It also offers a certified athletic trainers program for area schools in which trained healthcare professionals are present at athletic practices and games to help prevent …

Lowe, Betty Ann

Betty Ann Lowe developed Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock (Pulaski County) into a nationally known, competitive hospital by acting as an advocate, enlisting the help of a famous family, procuring state funding, and adding new, innovative departments. In addition to being a prominent figure in Arkansas pediatrics, she became the first Arkansan to become a pediatric rheumatologist and gained widespread notice as the physician of Chelsea Clinton, President Bill Clinton’s daughter. Betty Lowe was born on March 23, 1934, in Grapevine, Texas, to John and Winnie Lowe; she had three siblings, including a sister Mary, who became a renowned chemist. Lowe’s family soon moved to Enola (Faulkner County), where she was raised. During her sixth-grade year, the Lowes moved …

Malaria

Malaria is a serious infectious disease caused by a single-celled parasite known as a plasmodium, which is generally spread through mosquito bites. This disease caused incalculable suffering for thousands of Arkansans and other Southerners through the early twentieth century. Symptoms of malaria include high fever, chills, profuse sweating, malaise, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms can appear within a week of initial infection but can vary with the different types of parasites. Complications can include anemia, liver failure, kidney failure, and breathing problems. Patients can suffer relapses years after the initial infection. If untreated, malaria can cause death. Along with pellagra and hookworm, malaria was one of three diseases whose symptoms contributed to the false stereotype of Southerners as …

Malaria Control Projects in Southeast Arkansas

Two malaria control demonstration projects in southeast Arkansas during the Progressive Era showed not only that the disease could be controlled, but also that control was economically feasible. The project in Crossett (Ashley County) targeted mosquito breeding sites, while the one in the Lake Village (Chicot County) area studied protection by mechanical means. Both were noteworthy successes, though local governments often failed to follow up on those successes. Malaria control was a logical extension of hookworm eradication projects sponsored by the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission for the Eradication of Hookworm Disease. In 1915, Dr. Wickliffe Rose, who headed the commission, said that “malaria was responsible for more sickness and death than all other diseases combined.” The disease sapped the vitality of …

Malnutrition

Social, environmental, and political forces have influenced—and often hindered—Arkansans’ access to nutritious food. From outright hunger to nutrient-specific deficiencies like pellagra, malnutrition contributed to stereotypes about “lazy southerners” Through much of the state’s history. The American Mercury’s 1954 description of Arkansas as a land of “malnutrition, mental disability, hookworm, [and] hogs” did little to refute this stereotype. Although nutrition interventions focused heavily on the Delta area by the conclusion of the twentieth century, Arkansas as a whole received the dubious distinction as having the fifth-highest rate of food hardship in the nation of all states in 2012, according to the Food Research and Action Center. Historical Background Some of the earliest evidence of malnutrition in what is now Arkansas can be …

Mayfield, Mary Victor (M. V.)

Mary Victor (M. V.) Mayfield was a woman who came to Mena (Polk County) in 1918 and practiced medicine in the guise of a man for seven or eight years. A small, kind, and peaceful citizen, she soon became “the cancer doctor.” She put Mena in the national news for the events of January 23, 1926, when her identity as a woman was revealed by the news media. Little is known about M. V. Mayfield’s early life. She later claimed that her gender deception began in England—her parents needed a son, not a daughter, to “protect property rights,” so they dressed her as a boy and raised her in disguise. Mayfield carried the masquerade into adulthood by smoking a pipe and drinking a …

McAlmont, John Josephus

John Josephus McAlmont was one of the eight founders of the Arkansas Industrial University Medical Department, now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). John McAlmont was born on December 22, 1821, in Hornellsville, New York, the son of Daniel and Samantha Donham McAlmont and the youngest of seven siblings. McAlmont left home at age seventeen, earning money by teaching school. At twenty-one, he entered Geneva Medical College in New York for its one-semester course in medicine; there, he completed a course of lectures in medicine in April 1843. (A course of lectures was all that was required to practice medicine at the time.) McAlmont established his practice in April 1844 in Kendall Creek, Pennsylvania. The community was a …

McDonald, Harry Pelot

Harry Pelot McDonald was a doctor, medical missionary, civil rights activist, and humanitarian in the second half of the twentieth century. A leader of the Fort Smith (Sebastian County) branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), McDonald advocated for the African-American community by fighting for desegregation and increased employment opportunities. Harry Pelot McDonald was born on September 1, 1923, in Sumter, South Carolina. He was the youngest son of Adelaide Palmer McDonald and Samuel James McDonald. Samuel McDonald worked for the railway postal service and taught at Claflin University, in addition to serving as president of the Sumter NAACP. Adelaide McDonald was a homemaker and music teacher. Harry grew up in Sumter and was educated …

Medical Arts Building

The sixteen-story Medical Arts Building at 236 Central Avenue in downtown Hot Springs (Garland County) was the tallest building in Arkansas from its completion in 1930 until 1960, when the Tower Building was completed in downtown Little Rock (Pulaski County). (The tallest building in Arkansas currently is the forty-story Metropolitan Tower in Little Rock, which was built in 1986.) The upper floors of the Medical Arts Building are now vacant. The Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas (HPAA) listed it in 2012 as one of the state’s most endangered places. The Medical Arts Building was constructed by general contractor G. C. Gordon Walker with work beginning on December 1, 1929. Investors from Little Rock and New Orleans, Louisiana, purchased the site, …

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice is professional misconduct by physicians and surgeons toward a patient. Historically, malpractice falls into two categories: criminal malpractice covers actions contrary to or expressively forbidden by law; civil malpractice, the dominant form in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, refers to injurious treatment of the patient that includes unnecessary suffering or death that is due to professional ignorance, carelessness, a want of proper medical skills, and a disregard for established rules and practices. More rarely, malpractice can cover lawyers and other professionals. Medical malpractice suits emerged in the nineteenth century and came about only after the practice of medicine became informed by a scientific revolution that involved such discoveries as sepsis, immunization, and the germ theory. Suits were rare …

Mental Health

Prior to the opening of the Arkansas Lunatic Asylum (now the Arkansas State Hospital) in 1883, mentally ill Arkansans were cared for by their families or housed in jails, prisons, or poor farms. Since 1883, the Arkansas State Hospital (ASH) has been responsible for the treatment of thousands of Arkansans with a wide range of psychiatric diagnoses such as depression and schizophrenia. In the 1950s, the hospital’s census peaked at 5,086 patients. Since that time, the deinstitutionalization movement and advances in psychotropic medications have resulted in dramatically lower inpatient numbers. The current (as of 2010) ASH capacity of 234 beds represents a deinstitutionalization rate of 97.5% for the state. Most patients are admitted through a screening process conducted by the …

Mental Health Council of Arkansas

The Mental Health Council of Arkansas (MHCA) is a nonprofit organization that has been working to improve the overall health and well-being of citizens in Arkansas since 1972. It was originally founded under the Federal Community Mental Health Construction Grant. The MHCA is composed of fifty psychiatrists and approximately 2,000 healthcare professionals and is governed by a board of directors. Its members provide comprehensive mental health services to Arkansans through the fourteen community mental health centers in Arkansas. The centers provide a variety of mental health services, such as individual and group psychotherapy and medication management; psychological, personality, forensic, and intellectual evaluations; emergency/crisis treatment; consultation/education programs; and partial hospitalization programs. The MHCA is a member of the National Council for …

Mickel, Lillian Estes Eichenberger

Lillian Estes Eichenberger Mickel pioneered women’s roles in multiple fields. She served as a professional photographer, founded a nursing home, established a unique facility for handicapped children, was an accomplished portrait painter, and served as Johnson County’s historian. Lillian Eichenberger was born in Clarksville (Johnson County) on June 14, 1909, to Lafayette Eichenberger and Martha Louisa Black Eichenberger. She had seven siblings. Her father, a house painter, died in 1912. Her mother was an extremely talented seamstress. At the age of twelve, Eichenberger went to work in M. E. Anderson’s photography studio in order to give financial help to her widowed mother. She learned the photography business, becoming the first woman photographer in the state to make and distribute colored …

Midwives

Midwives have filled a clear, important role in Arkansas history by caring for populations of women who were medically underserved. Their role was almost supplanted by physicians in the early twentieth century, but they remain a viable option for women seeking an alternative model of birth care. Midwives in the hill country of Arkansas were well-respected members of the community who performed their duties as a service to their neighbors. Most were older women whose own children were grown and who had learned their trade from another midwife. They carried a midwife’s book and bag with them to assist during complicated deliveries when no doctor was available. Midwives were very knowledgeable on the subject of childbirth and the many uses …

Morris, John William

John William Morris was a long-time physician in Woodruff County who practiced medicine until the age of 101. Beginning in 1950, the Arkansas Medical Association (AMA) recognized Morris as the oldest practicing physician in Arkansas. In 1973, the AMA and “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” recognized him as the oldest full-time practicing physician in the United States. J. W. Morris was born on February 6, 1875 at Honey Hill (White County) to George Louis and Sarah Seawell Morris. He had ten siblings. Morris began his practice near McCrory (Woodruff County) on April 21, 1900. He married Amma Gray Burkett on December 19, 1901, and they had two children. Morris estimated that he delivered more than 7,000 babies during his career. …

Neel, Margarete Ethel

Margarete Ethel Neel became the symbol of the International Red Cross after World War II. The White County chapter submitted to the national headquarters a wartime photo of Neel guiding the wheelchair of wounded Private Gordon Pyle of California. It was reproduced as a poster for the organization’s post-war fundraising activities. A plaque commemorating Neel’s Red Cross service stands in front of the Searcy American Legion Hut, where the White County chapter of the Red Cross is located. The chapter was dedicated to Neel just after her death in 1971. Neel was among the first women listed on the rolls of the U.S. Women’s Memorial when it was dedicated in Washington DC in 1997. Margarete Neel was born on December …

Obesity

Obesity is a complex issue impacting every segment of the population and having many roots. The drivers and health effects of obesity are not fully understood but may be contextualized within the United States’ transition from a farm-based to an industrialized economy. Arkansas consistently ranks as one of the most obese states in the United States. Historically, most efforts to combat obesity have focused on individual-level interventions. Arkansas Act 1220 of 2003, which created the Child Health Advisory Committee, was among the first and most comprehensive statewide legislative initiatives to combat childhood obesity by focusing on creating healthier public school environments. Similar initiatives have proliferated since obesity has become a global health issue. Although widely discussed as a major risk …

Ogden, Mahlon Dickerson

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 …

Orto, Zaphney

Zaphney Orto, a prominent physician who helped discover the link between malaria and mosquitoes, was a U.S. army major and surgeon during the Spanish-American War, and the second president of Simmons First National Bank, founded in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Born to Leonidas Orto and Martha G. McElwee Orto in Somerville, Tennessee, in 1842, Zaphney Orto lived on a farm near Somerville until he was eighteen, then worked in a store for two years. He studied medicine with Dr. S. W. Thompson of Evansville, Indiana, and graduated from the Miami Medical College of Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1872. Shortly afterward, he moved to Arkansas, where he settled in Clover Bend (Lawrence County). He practiced medicine there for two years before moving …

Pellagra

Pellagra is a form of malnutrition caused by a severe deficiency of niacin (also known as nicotinic acid or vitamin B3) in the diet. The disease affected thousands of Arkansans and other Southerners in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Symptoms of pellagra can include lack of energy, outbreaks of red splotches on the skin, diarrhea, and—in extreme cases—depression, dementia, and even death. Pellagra is not contagious, and the condition can be reversed. The lethargic appearance of pellagra victims was also a symptom of two other diseases widely found in the South at the time, hookworm and malaria. These three contributed to the false stereotype of Southerners at this time as lazy. Pellagra was first recognized as a disease in 1762 …