Documentary on Doc Susie, local legend, premieres
Dozens of Grand County residents packed into Adolfs Event Center & Tavern in Winter Park on Wednesday night to witness the incredible life of Dr. Susan Anderson, better known around these parts as Doc Susie.
Rocky Mountain PBS premiered a new documentary at the tavern; a Colorado Experience episode entitled Doc Susie. The documentary briefly takes viewers through the life of one of Grand County’s most significant historical figures, featuring interviews with two of the county’s residents: Tim Nicklas, director of the Pioneer History Museum and Ida Sheriff, a former patient of Doc Susie.
“I am thrilled that they showed the beautiful person she really was,” said Sheriff. “It just really thrills me.”
Doc Susie was born in Indiana in 1870, and helped pave the way for female physicians across the country. She attended medical school at the University of Michigan in 1893, and moved to Cripple Creek, Colorado where she started her practice.
The town was full of miners who wouldn’t accept a woman doctor, believing that women were back luck. That is until Doc Susie began to change their minds. There’s numerous tales about her skills as a doctor in the area, including on one occasion when she was able to save a miner’s arm after an accident, and after a male doctor suggested amputation.
Personal issues derailed a promising start to her medical career in 1900, after her brother passed away and her fiancé left her at the alter. Doc Susie moved to Greeley where she was relegated to busy work and nursing. Soon after she was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and moved to Fraser to help battle the illness.
She tried initially to keep her medical history to herself, but word always gets out. One day while she was working a man came in begging for help, asking Susie to save a life. What she found was the man’s injured horse, which she indeed saved.
From then on the legend of Doc Susie continued to grow in Grand County. She served as Fraser’s only physician for decades, trudging through frigid, snow packed landscapes for miles to attend to her patients.
Susie retired in 1956, and took ill soon after. She passed away in Denver at the age of 90, and was buried in Cripple Creek. Today she is still regarded as a true pioneer, and legend in the county.
“My opinion of her was always as such a beautiful lady,” said Sheriff. “I never saw her upset. She is Grand County. She took care of everyone in Grand County. There was another doctor, and if you could catch him sober it was okay.”
The documentary aired on PBS on Oct. 26, but can be streamed on the Rocky Mountain PBS website.
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