clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

100-year-old pediatrician still dispensing advice, putting in long workdays in Georgia

After seven decades of practicing medicine, 100-year-old pediatrician Leila Denmark dispenses the same advice to mothers that she always has: Don't pick them up every time they cry, don't feed them on demand and don't raise your voice.

Also, don't neglect the child - they need to learn your way for seven years."Women have been brainwashed into believing don't mess around with a child, let someone else do it and go out and be lawyers, teachers, preachers, anything," Denmark said. "And we've never had more sick children than we have today."

Denmark, who turned 100 Sunday, is the oldest practicing physician in the country, according to the American Medical Association.

She began practicing in 1928 and still meets with patients today in a 125-year-old farmhouse nestled in the woods north of this northern Atlanta suburb.

Moms sit with their crying and fidgeting babies in an unadorned front room, waiting sometimes for hours. There's no receptionist, nurse or appointment book - just a sign-in sheet on a marble-top table.

The doctor is in her office five days a week, from early morning until the last patient leaves. And if a troubled mother calls her at home at 2 a.m., she will pull on her robe and walk across the yard to meet her at the office.

"You can't plan when a baby is going to get sick," she said.

Denmark had planned to retire when she and her late husband, John Eustace Denmark, built a home here in 1985 from nearby Sandy Springs, where she had practiced for some 40 years. She was 87, after all.

Then, she asked a grandson to fix up the farmhouse next door. She just wanted to practice a while longer to pass the time. A dozen years later, she's still at it, seeing 15 to 25 patients a day.

"I hope I'll know the day when I can't do it right," she said. "Old people have to know when it's over. I hope my patients or my daughter will tell me."

Some doctors find her ideas old-fashioned but not all bad.

"A lot of things she did, pediatricians thought were not necessarily modern, but as years have gone by, they've turned out to be pretty darn good," says Dr. Joseph Patterson, medical director emeritus at Egleston Hospital for Children. "She does have one ability that all of us wish we had: She's truly dedicated to her patients."