Leila Denmark

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 14 May 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3361
  1. Ned Stafford
  1. ns{at}

Oldest practising doctor in the United States

Dr Leila Alice Denmark called her patients “little angels.” She loved being a paediatrician, and she never wanted to stop. But in May 2001 she walked the few steps from her country home to her rustic doctor’s office for one last day of play: “Doing what you don’t like is work,” she was fond of saying. “Doing what you like is play.”

Later that day she would call out into the waiting room for the last time, “Who is the next little angel?”

Normally, there is nothing unusual about a doctor calling it quits and retiring—but Denmark was 103 years old. “The only reason she quit was because her eyesight was getting poor,” said her daughter, Mary Denmark Hutcherson. “She told me, ‘I don’t want to make any mistakes.’”

When she retired, Denmark was the “oldest practising physician in the country,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Before her death at the age of 114, the Gerontology Research Group, which verifies claims of extreme old age, …

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