A Public Health Pioneer

Jan 13, 2015


Mabel Elliott of Benton Harbor, Michigan, was a physician with the American Women’s Hospitals organization. From May 1919 to January 1920, she directed the Near East Relief’s medical unit in Marash, Turkey. When the city came under siege, Dr. Elliott fled with 5,000 refugees. On a three-day trek to safety on foot, half of the refugees in her care died of exposure along the way. Following a five-month respite in America, Dr. Elliot returned to Ismid, Turkey, where she created a modern hospital that included nurses’ training classes, attached clinics, and a soup kitchen—with Near East Relief furnishing all necessary supplies and the American Women’s Hospitals organization providing the medical staff.

A September 1921 inspection trip to Near East Relief’s stations in the Caucasus inspired Dr. Elliott to relocate her practice. There she supervised the medical care of 40,000 orphans and thousands of adult refugees. A year later, she was called upon to assist orphans in Mityelene, Greece, in the aftermath of the Smyrna Disaster and serve as Near East Relief’s medical director in Greece. In the span of one year, Dr. Elliott established seven hospitals and numerous small clinics throughout Greece. She also created a quarantine station on Macronissi Island to prevent the spread of disease among the refugee population.

In appreciation of her pioneering public health work, the Greek government presented Dr. Elliott with the Silver Cross of St. George, the Gold Cross of St. George, and the Greek Croix de Guerre. Returning to America in October 1923, Dr. Elliot recorded her memoirs in the acclaimed book Beginning Again at Ararat.


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