Florence R. Sabin, M.D. (1871-1953)

Part Four — 1948-1953

1948 — The Denver Department of Health and Charities

Florence Sabin in 1951 Mayor Quigg Newton appointed Florence R. Sabin, MD, 77, to chair an Interim Board of Health and Hospitals of Denver (1948-1951).

Quigg Newton, a 36-year-old native of Denver, became mayor of Denver after defeating twenty-year incumbent Mayor Ben Stapleton in the 1947 election. In 1956 Quigg Newton became president of the University of Colorado (1956-1963), and he would be president of the Commonwealth Fund from 1964 to 1975.

During Dr. Sabin's tenure Denver's tuberculosis rate dropped by 50% and the incidence of syphilis by more than 85%. Her initiatives included the building of a new sewage treatment plant for Denver, increased frequency of garbage collection, an aggressive rat-elimination effort, and the improvement in the quality of milk and other dairy products.

Dr. Florence Sabin served as president (1948) of the Western Branch of the American Public Health Association, and received the American Woman's Association Medal for eminent achievement in the year 1947.

1951 — Public Health Reform in Denver

On the recommendation of Mayor Quigg Newton and Dr. Florence Sabin, Denver voters approved an amendment to the City Charter that divided the Department of Health and Charities into two new departments:

  • The Department of Health and Hospitals— now called Denver Health
  • The Department of Welfare — now called Denver Human Services.
The amendment stipulated that the Health and Hospitals manager be a public health physician, and established a seven-member board appointed by mayor to set policy.

In 1951 Dr. Florence Sabin received the Albert Lasker Public Service Award from the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation "for outstanding accomplishments in public health administration, as Chairman of the Health Committee of the Governor of Colorado's Post-War Planning Committee." The photo at the top of this page was taken at the Albert Lasker Public Service Award ceremony.

1953 — The End of an Amazing Life

Florence R. Sabin, MD, 81, a native of Central City, died in Denver on October 3, 1953.

Florence Sabin Statuary Hall US Capitol Dr. Sabin had received her MD from Johns Hopkins in 1900 and had been professor of histology at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore (1917-25), chair of the Department of Cellular Studies at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York City (1925-38) — and Colorado's most effective healthcare reformer (1944-1951) so far.

In 1959 the State of Colorado placed a statue of Dr. Florence Sabin in National Statuary Hall in the US Capitol.

In 2005 the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine named one of its four advisory colleges the Florence R. Sabin College.

Contact book [at] coloradohealthcarehistory [dot] com or @ColoradoHealth on Twitter with additions, corrections, suggestions, or for more information. Thank you!


Photographs except as noted here are from the National Library of Medicine website, and are in the public domain. NLM has not been able to to identify the current copyright owner of the photograph of Dr. Sabin speaking at Hobart and William Smith College. The photograph of the statue of Dr. Sabin is from the website of the Architect of the Capitol, Washington, DC, and is in the public domain.

Highly recommended: The Florence R. Sabin Papers section of the NLM website – and – the Florence Rena Sabin Papers from the Sophia Smith Collection at the Five College Archives & Manuscripts Collections.

Return to Top

Copyright © 2015 Thomas J. Sherlock
All Rights Reserved.