Today’s Doodle honors the life and legacy of Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte (1865-1915), the first American Indian to earn a medical degree.
Picotte grew up in Nebraska on the Omaha reservation, where her father urged her to “be somebody in the world.” She left her village and made her way east, eventually attending the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (featured in today’s Doodle on the left), where she graduated at the top of her class. Despite receiving numerous prestigious job offers, Picotte chose to return to the reservation to provide the medical care that her tribe badly needed – tending to patients across 1,350 square miles on foot and horseback, in wind, snow, and rain.
Picotte was also a fierce public health advocate and social reformer. She promoted life-saving hygiene practices, such as the elimination of communal drinking cups and the installation of screen doors to keep out disease-carrying insects. Most notably, in 1913, she personally raised the funds to build a modern hospital in her hometown, which you can see pictured to the right of today’s Doodle.
Picotte’s remarkable career as a physician and health advocate just scratches the surface of her legacy. She was more than the reservation’s doctor – she was also an advisor, confidant, and symbol of hope for the Omaha.
Happy 152nd birthday to “Dr. Sue,” as her patients called her – a true American heroine.