Susan La Flesche Picotte, First N.A. Female MD
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Doctor on the Reservation
Alice Fletcher
Alice Fletcher, an ethnologist and advocate of the Omaha.
Courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society, RG2026-42

While teaching at the Quaker Mission School on the Omaha Reservation, Susan La Flesche nursed the ill ethnologist and advocate of the Omaha, Alice Fletcher. Fletcher urged La Flesche to go back to school to get a medical degree.

Susan La Flesche
Susan La Flesche, 1886.
Courtesy National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, BAE GN 4503

In 1886, La Flesche attended the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia. In 1889, she graduated with a medical degree, not only one year early but first in her class of thirty-six members as welll.

After earning her medical degree, it was back to the Omaha Reservation for long, hard work. Dr. La Flesche was the reservation's only doctor, and she cared for more than a thousand people.

letter from Dr. Picotte: I call your attention to two problems that are of vital interest to my people
Letter from Dr. Picotte to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs
, April 29, 1914.
Courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society, RG2026-LETTER-1914

As a doctor, it was easy for Dr. La Flesche to see how changes brought about from having to live in a white world were hurting her people. She did a great deal to help her people understand that they needed to make corresponding changes to protect their health. Dr. La Flesche wrote to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs about alcoholism and tuberculosis.

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