Published on January 29, 2013 by Amy
Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte (June 17, 1865 – September 18, 1915) was the first American Indian woman to become a physician in the United States. Of Ponca, Iowa, French and Anglo-American descent, she grew up with her parents on the Omaha Reservation. She went to college at the Hampton Institute and, in 1889, got her medical degree at the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (WMCP) in Philadelphia.
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LaFlesche Picotte worked in Nebraska, providing health care to her Omaha people for much of her career. In private practice after 1894, she also had European-American patients. In 1913 she founded a hospital on the Omaha Reservation at Walthill, Nebraska, the first on any reservation to be privately funded. After LaFlesche Picotte died two years later, the hospital as renamed in her honor. Later it was designated as a National Historic Landmark. Today it serves as a museum featuring her work and the history of the Omaha and Ho-Chunk tribes, and also has a center for the care of children.
The hospital she founded was in her honor after her death, as the Dr. Susan LaFlesche Picotte Memorial Hospital. It has been adapted for use as a museum: it features her work, and the history of the Omaha and Winnebago tribes. Portions of the building are used for the Sacred Child Center, providing support for troubled young people.