By Kim Williamson
Forsyth is one of the fastest growing counties in the United States with construction and development everywhere you turn. Dr. Leila Denmark High School, located in the southwest part of the county, is a new school slated to open in 2018. In a growing county, that’s not extraordinary. However, dig a little deeper into the name behind it all – and you’ll discover it’s not only extraordinary but awe-inspiring!
In fact, everything about Dr. Denmark was extra-ordinary! Born in 1898, Leila Denmark was the only female in her class at the Medical College of the Uni-versity of Georgia. She went on to be the first intern at Henrietta Egleston Hospital for Children (now CHOA), and practiced pediatrics for 73 years – 73 years, serving generation upon generation of families. Dr. Denmark was instrumental in finding a vaccination for whooping cough, working with teams at Eli Lily and Emory University. She retired at age 103, mainly because of waning eyesight, but her mind and medical knowledge were still crystal clear.
Dr. Denmark would have deflected most compliments and praise because for her, it was all about the children. To Denmark, parenting was the most important job you could have, and she continually encouraged the mothers whose children she treated. Dr. Denmark didn’t just diagnose – she educated, advised, comforted and counseled.
Cumming resident, Madia Bowman, first met Denmark when Bowman’s oldest daughter was born. “I wondered if she would be capable,” says Bowman. It took all of 5 minutes for Madia to know that the then 82-year old Denmark was the perfect doctor for her family Denmark would eventually care for all 11 Bowman children. “She was probably one of the most amazing – if not the most amazing – people I have ever known,” Madia adds.
Denmark ran an old-fashioned practice and didn’t take appointments for you never knew when a child would be sick. Patients waited in the office (adjacent to the land on which the new high school will be built) were seen, first-come, first-served. In the course of raising 11 children, Madia Bowman spent many hours with Dr. Denmark and says, “Everyone just loved her manner, her common sense approach to taking care of children. Dr. Denmark wasn’t just our doctor; she was our mentor.”
One of Denmark’s many accomplish-ments was her book on raising children, Every Child Should Have a Chance, published in 1971. Over the years of doctors’ visits, counseling and conversations, Madia discussed a possible second Denmark book. Denmark’s response? “Why don’t you write your own book?” So, from past, present and future conversations, Madia’s book Dr. Denmark Said It! was born. The Bowmans have been amazed at the outpouring of love and respect for Leila Denmark – and the desire for her words of wisdom. The book, now in its fifth edition, was most recently translated into Spanish and Mandarin and is available in both the U.S. and abroad (www.drdenmarksaidit.com).
Dr. Leila Denmark High School is not merely a sign of Forsyth County’s growth. It is a tribute to a legend, a beloved member of the community. It’s no coincidence that her name, the name of a famous doctor, mentor and yes, educator, should decorate the walls of this latest high school. Den-mark’s mantra was her book’s title – every child should have a chance – and she always added, “Do what you can to help.” For the students that walk through the doors of Denmark High, this is part of that chance.
- Madia Bowman, personal interview. 07/15/2016.