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Dr. Hilda Hart Bailey, the first woman pediatrician in Salisbury, NC, died July 5, 2018. She was 96. Dr. Bailey owned a private medical practice in Salisbury for close to 50 years.
The funeral service will be held Sunday at 3 p.m. at Unity Presbyterian Church, 885 Woodleaf-Barber Road, Cleveland, NC. She was a lifelong member of Unity. The Rev. Kevin Conley will lead the service. A private burial service will be held in the church cemetery.
The family will receive friends immediately after the service in the church fellowship hall.
Dr. Bailey was born Sept. 2, 1921, in Woodleaf, the eldest daughter of the late Hugh Marcellus and Charlotte Fraley Culbertson Bailey. She graduated from Woodleaf High School in 1938 at the age of 16, and attended Flora McDonald College in Red Springs for three years. In 1941, she transferred to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to finish her Bachelor of Science degree. She attended UNC School of Medicine from 1942-1944. Having achieved the highest test score among the medical student body, she became president of the Whitehead Medical Society, the student government of the School of Medicine. She transferred to the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia in 1944, where she received her medical degree in 1946 at the age of 24.
Dr. Bailey entered the North Carolina university system and its medical school during a time when women students had very limited opportunities in Chapel Hill. They were often directed to Woman’s College at Greensboro (now UNC at Greensboro), or into the nursing profession. She recalled that fellow male students called her “Sister.”
According to “Oral History,” published by Old Dominion University on the role of women in medical schools nationally, women in the 1940s encountered many barriers when trying to enter medical school, including discrimination throughout their schooling, lack of financial, emotional, and psychological support, lack of female role models, and lack of patronage or sponsorship within the medical profession.
The average quota for women medical students in 1941 was 5 percent nationally. In 1941, a total of 636 women filed 2,283 applications for admission to medical school. Women faced additional obstacles when competing for the limited internship positions available to women. In 1941, only 105 of 712 AMA-approved internship hospitals in the nation even accepted applications from women.
Women gained a foothold in medical schools during the early 1940s because World War II called men to service. The number of hospitals accepting women interns increased by 400% from 105 in 1941, to 463 at the end of 1942.
As easily as the barriers were lowered during the war, they were once again raised after the war. In1945, women physicians were removed from hospital staffs to make room for the returning male veterans. Thus, the medical establishment took swift action to reverse the gains women physicians in the medical profession had enjoyed during the war years. By the fall of 1946, a full-page advertisement appeared in the New York Herald Tribune under the caption: “Doctors Wanted: No Women Need Apply.” This resulted in protests from leading women doctors.
Nationally, the period from 1949 to approximately 1960 has been called the “era of hostility” for women in medicine. Women physicians faced several problems, such as hostility, downgrading, and isolation from their professional colleagues. The rationale behind the animosity expressed by their male medical colleagues can be explained by an examination of the traditional attitudes of men toward women physicians at this time. One complaint male physicians voiced was that women, after obtaining their advanced degree, would either not practice medicine, or would drop out while in medical school and/or during their professional career. In actuality, up to 93% of the women practiced medicine after graduation.
Upon graduation from medical school, Dr. Bailey worked with an experienced pediatrician from 1946-’48 at Grace Hospital in Banner Elk, where the Bailey family had good friends. She then worked in Banner Elk for three additional years. In 1951-’52, she did a one-year residency in pediatrics at Babies Hospital in Wilmington, for years the only pediatric specialty clinic in the state. The hospital pioneered treatments for hypertrophic pyloric stenosis and the use of blood transfusions through the umbilical vein for certain medical conditions. It was the first hospital in the state to use an oxygen tent and to administer streptomyacin. From 1922, the hospital arranged to have housing nearby so mothers could stay with their children during the recovery process — a novel notion for the time.
In 1952, during the height of the polio epidemic, Dr. Bailey returned to Rowan County and opened her private pediatric practice on the second floor of a building in the 100 block of North Main Street in Salisbury. The other pediatrician in Salisbury at the time, Dr. William Kavanagh, ended his practice and began a real estate business. Later, she moved her office to the Medical Services Building at 102 Mocksville Ave.
Dr. Bailey’s dedication to children endeared her to Rowan County families and nursing staffs. She often made house calls, and an office visit resulted in numerous follow-up phone calls by Dr. Bailey. Her office notepad contained the logo, “Feed the Children.” A hospitalized child received her tireless attention. She was sometimes seen rocking an unhappy hospitalized child, even if the child was not her patient. Every parent of her “children” has at least one Dr. Bailey story, some of them bordering on heroism.
Her quiet, professional demeanor soothed worried parents, and her many kindnesses did not go unnoticed, although she refused attention for her work. In early years, when she was the first doctor in the delivery room and waiting to receive the newborn, she recalled that she was sometimes called upon to actually deliver the baby. Her first delivery was breech, and she credited an experienced nursing staff, not her expertise, with the safe delivery.
One retired nurse recalled that Dr. Bailey went downtown and bought clothes for a little girl in need before the child left the hospital. A niece who worked at the front desk in her office as a teen-ager for one summer recalled Dr. Bailey asking her to call the hospital and tell them that she was sending a child to be admitted. The hospital said no more patients could be admitted, that the hospital was full. Upon informing her aunt of that, the teen-ager was sent back to the phone with these instructions: “You tell them that this child is going to be admitted today, if I have to come over there and do it myself.” The child was admitted.
Former patients visited her throughout her long life, and before her retirement, she treated children of her original patients. Another doctor in town who saw one of her patients recalled that the child told him: “You’re not a real doctor. You’re not wearing a dress.”
In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by a brother, William Douglas Bailey; a sister, Donnell Bailey Gowey; and good friend Gladys VanPoole.
She is survived by a brother, Jack (Charlotte) Bailey of Charlotte and Daniel Island, SC, and numerous nieces and nephews. She supported many children’s charities, particularly the 38-year-old pre-school program at her home church.
Memorials may be made to Unity Presbyterian Church, PO Box 28, Woodleaf, NC, 27054, or the charity of your choice.
Carolina Cremation of Salisbury and Charlotte is assisting the Bailey family. Online condolences may be made at www.carolinacremation.com.