Those who knew her say Dr. Leila Daughtry Denmark helped generations of young mothers keep their children healthy.
Denmark, 114, died Sunday at her daughter’s home in Athens. She spent the majority of her pediatric career in Forsyth County, practicing medicine in a room attached to her house. She retired in 2001 at age 103.
Among the world’s oldest people, the Bulloch County native received the 1935 Fisher Award after helping develop the pertussis, or “whooping cough,” vaccine.
She was also honored with a doctor of science degree from Emory University for her humanitarian efforts as a pediatrician.
Denmark helped Forsyth County residents Steve and Madia Bowman with their 11 children.
Madia Bowman later wrote a book called “Dr. Denmark Said It” that provides advice from Dr. Denmark to parents.
“It’s just hard to imagine that she’s gone,” Bowman said. “She’s been one of my best friends all these years and my mentor.
“I know the Lord gave her 114 years, and that’s a blessing, but it’s hard to imagine her being gone now.”
Bowman said she’d been visiting Denmark every six weeks or so and last saw her about a month ago. She said she is grateful for the time she had with her and made sure to let the doctor know that her legacy continued.
Denmark authored “Every Child Should Have A Chance,” which is now in its 14th printing.
“I get calls from women all over the world who have read those books and have questions about them,” Bowman said. “They’re implementing her child care advice and they have a question so they’ll call me. They’re very grateful for having that information and the practical advice that she gave to mothers with young children.”
Bowman said she hopes parents will continue to benefit from the books, as well as an instructional DVD called “The Well Fed, Well Rested Baby: Dr. Denmark’s Newborn Routine.”
She said Denmark’s bedside manner with parents and their children included patience, listening and individual care.
“Because she did that for so many years — all that individual attention, individual advice, individual love — she was able to impact so many families,” said Bowman, adding that Denmark often inspired troubled parents to strive to do better.
Phill Bettis, local attorney, said his father built the house in Forsyth County where Denmark lived and treated her patients.
Bettis said Denmark was “quite remarkable.”
“She loved practicing in that little house,” Bettis said. “I don’t know that she ever locked the doors and you were welcome to come see her … she might have three or four generations of folks that would come to her sequentially. That’s remarkable in itself.”
He said Denmark’s long life may have in part been due to her beliefs about diet.
“She did not believe in milk products,” Bettis said. “She didn’t believe in bubble gum medicine. It was a very austere look compared to how we think of medicine today. I think her mind-set in that was medicine shouldn’t be that attractive to us.”
He also said that Denmark ate little meat, loved vegetables and thought good eating habits should be passed down from one generation to the next.
He noted that Denmark saw the birth of the modern medicine people benefit from today.
“She was actually a pioneer,” he said.
According to her obituary, Denmark graduated from Bessie Tift College in 1922, studied at Mercer University and received an M.D. degree in 1928 from the Medical College of the University of Georgia.
She married John Eustace Denmark shortly after graduation and became the first resident of Henrietta Egleston Hospital for Children and admitted its first patient.
Denmark was predeceased by her husband and 11 brothers and sisters. Survivors include her daughter, two grandsons and two great-grandchildren.
Funeral services are scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday at the First United Methodist Church in Athens, with burial Friday in Portal Cemetery.