Leila Denmark

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Leila Denmark
Born Leila Alice Daughtry
(1898-02-01)February 1, 1898
Portal, Georgia, U.S.
Died April 1, 2012(2012-04-01)
(aged 114 years, 60 days)
Athens, Georgia, U.S.
Occupation Pediatrician, Medical Researcher
Spouse(s) John E. Denmark (1899–1990)

Leila Alice Denmark (née Daughtry; February 1, 1898 – April 1, 2012)[1] was an American pediatrician. She was the world's oldest practicing pediatrician until her retirement in May 2001 at the age of 103, after 73 years.[2] She was a supercentenarian, living to the age of 114 years, 60 days. On December 10, 2011, at age 113 years 312 days, she became one of the 100 oldest people ever. At her death she was the 5th-oldest verified living person in the world and the 3rd-oldest verified living person in the United States.

As a pioneering female doctor, a medical researcher and an outspoken voice in the pediatric community, Denmark was one of the very few supercentenarians in history to gain prominence in life for reasons other than longevity. She started treating children in 1928, and by the time of her retirement was treating grandchildren and great-grandchildren of her first patients.[3]

Early life[edit]

Born in Portal, Georgia, Denmark was the third of 12 children born to Elerbee and Alice Cornelia Hendricks Daughtry. Her paternal uncle was Missouri Congressman James Alexander Daugherty.[4] She attended Tift College in Forsyth, Georgia, where she trained to be a teacher, but decided to attend medical school when her fiancé, John E. Denmark (1899–1990)[5] was posted to Java, Dutch Indies, by the United States Department of State and no wives were allowed. She was the only woman in the 1928 graduating class of the Medical College of Georgia, and the third woman to ever graduate from the school with a medical degree.[6] She married soon after she received her diploma, on June 11, 1928.[7] She was a registered democrat and a practicing baptist. [7]

Medical career[edit]

Following graduation, she accepted a residency at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia and moved to the Virginia-Highland[8] neighborhood with her husband. Denmark was the first physician on staff at Henrietta Egleston Hospital, a pediatric hospital on the Emory University campus, when it opened. In private practice, she saw patients in a clinic at her home and devoted a substantial amount of her professional time to charity. By 1935, she was a listed staff member at the Presbyterian Church Baby Clinic in Atlanta, Georgia, as well as pursuing work at Grady and maintaining a private practice.[7] Denmark is credited as co-developer of the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine in the 1920s and 1930s.[9] For this, she was awarded the Fisher Prize in 1935.

Denmark outlined her views on child-rearing in her book Every Child Should Have a Chance,[10] published in 1971. She was among the first doctors to object to cigarette smoking around children, and drug use in pregnant women.[citation needed] She believed that drinking cow's milk is harmful, and that children and adults should eat fruit instead of drinking fruit juices, and drink only water.[11] On March 9, 2000, the Georgia General Assembly honored her in a resolution.

Later life[edit]

On her 100th birthday in 1998, she refused cake because there was too much sugar in it. When she refused cake again on her 103rd birthday, she explained to the restaurant's server that she had not had any food with added sugar in it in 70 years. She wrote a second book, published in 2002, with Madia Bowman titled Dr. Denmark Said It!: Advice for Mothers from America's Most Experienced Pediatrician.[12] Denmark retired in 2002 because her eyesight was getting too weak for more involved tasks such as examining children's throats.

Denmark lived independently in her Alpharetta, Georgia home until age 106, when she moved to Athens, Georgia to live with her only daughter, Mary Hutcherson. On February 1, 2008, Denmark celebrated her 110th birthday, becoming a supercentenarian. According to Hutcherson, Denmark's health deteriorated severely in the autumn of 2008 but later improved as she neared her 111th birthday.[13] In addition to Hutcherson, her only child, Denmark had two grandchildren, Steven and James, and two great-grandchildren, Jake and Hayden.

Awards and Honors[edit]

  • The Fisher Award for "outstanding research in diagnosis, treatment, and immunization of whooping cough for her work on the vaccine," (1935)
  • Named Atlanta’s Woman of the Year (1953)
  • Distinguished Service Citation from Tift College as a “devout humanitarian who has invested her life in pediatric services to all families without respect to economic status, race, or national origin…. Devoted Humanitarian, Doctor par excellence, Generous Benefactor.” (1970)
  • Distinguished Alumni Award, Tift College (1980)
  • Community Service Award, sponsored by television station WXIA, Atlanta, Georgia (1980)
  • Book of Golden deeds Award, Buckhead Exchange Club, Atlanta (1981)
  • Citation, Citizens of Portal, Georgia, jointly with her husband, John Eustace Denmark, for Outstanding Achievement and Service (1982)
  • Shining Light Award, Atlanta Gas Light Company (1989)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Atlanta Business Chronicle (1998)
  • Heroes, Saints and Legends Award, Wesley Woods (2000)
  • Honorary doctorate, Emory University (2000) [6][14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lee Shearer Leila Denmark, beloved doctor, dies at 114. OnlineAthens (2012-04-02)
  2. ^ UGA researchers wrapping up study of centenarians and their longevity, Athens Banner-Herald OnlineAthens (2006-12-27). Retrieved October 17, 2011.
  3. ^ "Dr. Leila Denmark". 
  4. ^ "J. A. Daughtery Dies" The Washington Post (1920-02-02)
  5. ^ John Eustace Denmark ,
  6. ^ a b "Changing the Face of Medicine | Dr. Leila Alice Daughtry Denmark". www.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 2016-02-03. 
  7. ^ a b c American women;the official who's who among the women of the nation. Los Angeles, Calif.,. 
  8. ^ Lola Carlisle, DR. LEILA DENMARK — 114 YEARS OF MEMORIES: Pediatrician To Virginia-Highland’s “Little Angels”, The Virginia-Highland Voice (online edition), April 6, 2012
  9. ^ Leila Daughtry-Denmark (1942). "Whooping cough vaccine". Am J Dis Child 63 (3): 453–466. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1942.02010030023002. 
  10. ^ Denmark, Leila Daughtry (1971). Every child should have a chance. New York: Vantage Press. OCLC 1390428. 
  11. ^ Dr. Leila Denmark: Turning 113 | Dr. Denmark Said It | Oldest Americans. Sparkplugpeople.com (2011-02-01). Retrieved on 2012-04-03.
  12. ^ Bowman, Madia L. (2001). Dr. Denmark said it!: advice to mothers from America's most experienced pediatrician. ISBN 0-9703814-0-9. 
  13. ^ Bulloch native Leila Denmark turns 111. Statesboroherald.com (2009-02-08). Retrieved on 2012-04-03.
  14. ^ "Leila Denmark (1898-2012)". New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2016-02-03. 

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