Dr. Caroline McGill: Kapp School graduate

Joan Hart

Joan Hart

By: 
JOAN HART

I hope you were as excited as I was to learn about Dr. Caroline  McGill, a graduate of Kapp School here in Laclede County, who eventually became one of the most prominent female physicians in the country at a time when it was extremely rare to find a woman in the medical field.

And equally “mind-blowing” to me was learning that in addition to this she single-handedly  started a collection of Montana artifacts which enabled her to carry out her vision to establish a small museum on the campus of Montana State University at Bozeman. But her vision wasn’t big enough to comprehend the fact that her “small museum” would become the Museum of the Rockies affiliated with the  Smithsonian, and recognized as one of the world’s finest research and history museums, displaying an extensive collection of dinosaur fossils, permanent indoor and outdoor regional history exhibits and a planetarium.

Pretty good for a little country girl attending a small rural school in the southwestern part of Missouri, and growing up in a log house just down the road from that school, a house which is still standing, although it has been modernized, located on Hemlock Road. If it were up to me, she would be nominated for next year’s Wall of Fame here in Lebanon.

Last week I wrote about her many professional accomplishments. Today I want to share some stories of her personal life.
There was one event in her professional life which hurt her deeply and according to those who knew her best, one which she never completely got over, and I can certainly understand why. From last week’s column we learn that she was the first woman to earn a PhD in the field of medicine from the University of Missouri and she later became the first pathologist in Montana. In 1912 she began working toward her medical degree at John Hopkins University in Baltimore. She graduated in 1914 with the highest grades in her class. Look again at those two dates because they make up the essence of this story. It took her only two years to obtain her medical degree instead of the usual four. It was because of this that although she graduated first in the class, she received only second place honors!  Needless to say when John Hopkins offered her a position there, she turned it down to go to Butte, Montana and opened a private practice there.

For the complete column, see the Weekend print edition of The Daily Record, or view the e-Edition online.

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