DR. LOTTIE I. BLAKE: THE FIRST SDA BLACK PHYSICIAN
by Haiyoung Kim
"How could those hydrotherapy treatments help anyone? They're nothing but rag treatments!" scoffed the doctors in Nashville, Tennessee.
Dr. Lottie Isabell Blake, the first black SDA physician graduated top of her class in 1902. Little did her fellow classmates realize the brightness of her mind when she first walked into class. All tried to sit some distance away from her, until after the first exam when the proctor announced that she had scored a perfect paper.
By the time graduation came around, dreams of someday going to Africa as a missionary filled her with bubbling zeal. But instead of finding herself in the jungles of Africa, she found herself in the jungle of one of the worst inner cities. Here she tried to get a health sanitarium established. In the early 1900's, hydrotherapy (treatment by water) and all other natural, non-medicinal treatments were looked upon with disdain by the medical professionals of that day - rag treatments, they called them. Determined not to quit, Dr. Blake faithfully ministered to those few who became convinced of the benefits of natural remedies.
Her labors seemed in vain; the sanitarium was located in the worst possible neighborhood, and conditions were so primitive. After a year Blake was called to serve at Oakwood. An epidemic broke out in the orphanage and many children seemed on the verge of death. Day after day she treated children back to wellness. Many times, children came into her office sobbing, yet when they left, relieved smiles and calmed sniffles paved the way to her increasing popularity.
It was during this time that, Dr. Lottie Isabell met a strikingly handsome man, David E. Blake, also a physician and pastor. They were married and with their love for Christ and for each other, they accepted a call to Panama as self-supporting missionaries. While Dr. David Blake continued to practice medicine among the natives whose languages he could speak, Dr. Lottie Blake spent her energies training their five children. While doing so, she attracted the native children of wealthy parents. Her little school bustled with activity for the four years that her family was there.
The missionary venture took a toll on the family; every member was, at some time, afflicted with malaria. In spite of it, their missionary zeal led them to other places of service. They went to Haiti, then on to Jamaica until their savings were used up. They planned that Dr. Lottie Blake and her children would wait in Jamaica, while Dr. David Blake went back to the States to set up a medical practice in West Virginia. Before he left, hugs and misty-eyed good-byes were exchanged. Little did they know that Dr. Blake would die of pneumonia.
Anger, pain, tears, and confusion mingled with earnest prayer, brought Dr. Lottie Blake the strength she needed to continue her late husband's medical practice. When leaving her children with relatives, again tears came, yet God brought her comfort and wisdom to go on.
Driven to serve humanity, Lottie discovered a cure for "smoky city" pneumonia, something she is well-remembered for by the medical profession. She also took special interest in the treatment of women and children.
The same loving hands that ministered to those around her, also ministered by leading choirs, and doing treasury, and Sabbath School work.
In 1976 Dr. Lottie Blake died at the age of 100. Her death has inspired many to the true work of Christian service. Her enthusiasm for the church and academic achievement have overflowed to her children and grandchildren, many who have become great educators and physicians leading others to Jesus.