ATLANTA - Dr. Leila Denmark, the oldest practicing physician when she retired at age 103, died Sunday in Athens, Ga., her family said. She was 114.
Dr. Denmark became the first resident physician at Henrietta Egleston Hospital for Children in Atlanta when it opened in 1928, and admitted the first patient at the hospital, now part of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Dr. Denmark began her pediatrics practice in her home in Atlanta in 1931 and continued until her retirement in 2001. That year, she earned the distinction of being the world’s oldest practicing physician, said Robert Young, senior consultant for gerontology for Guinness World Records. She was also the world’s fourth-oldest living person when she died, Young said.
Throughout her career, she kept her office in or near her home, where children and their parents could show up at all hours in need of care, family members said.
Helping children get well and stay well was challenging in Atlanta’s soot-stained air during the Depression era.
She treated some of Atlanta’s poorest children as a volunteer at the Central Presbyterian Baby Clinic in Atlanta, said her daughter, Mary Hutcherson of Athens. Mill workers and other poor people who had no other way to get medical care would bring their sick children to the clinic.
Dr. Denmark loved her volunteer work at the clinic, just as she loved seeing patients in her home, her daughter said.
That enduring love of work was a key to her long life, along with eating right, family said.
“She absolutely loved practicing medicine more than anything else,’’ said a grandson, Dr. James Hutcherson. “She never referred to practicing medicine as work.’’