Susan Anderson, M.D. was born in 1870 and moved to Cripple Creek, Colorado, with her family in 1891 during the gold rush. She graduated from the University of Michigan in 1897. In one of her first cases as a physician, Anderson rejected a surgeon’s recommendation to amputate and saved the arm of a boy who had accidentally exploded dynamite in a mine.
After encountering difficulties building a practice in Denver, Greeley and Eaton, Anderson found her services appreciated in Fraser, where she treated lumberjacks, ranchers, railroad workers and even animals. Townsfolk referred to her as “Doc Susie.” Although most of her practice involved house calls, she never owned a horse or car. When her services were needed, and the patient was distant, relatives or friends of the patient would provide her with transportation. She often accompanied patients to Colorado General Hospital in Denver to admit them for treatment. Usually paid in firewood or food, she was poor most of her life.
When the Moffat Tunnel was bored throught the Rockies, many tunnel workers were injured and killed in accidents. Because most of her patients were poor and unable to pay her, Dr. Anderson became destitute. During the time the Moffat Tunnel was being bored, she was made Grand County Coroner. This official position — and the steady salary — made her financial situation much less precarious.
During the great influenza epidemic of 1918, Dr. Anderson was rushed from one deathbed to the next as her reputation for saving pneumonia patients put her in great demand. In later years she set the broken bones of skiers injured at the Winter Park ski resort and even stitched up the lacerated arm of a World War II sailor who was injured while riding on a troop train that passed through Fraser. Dr. Anderson died in 1960 in a rest home in Denver and is buried in Cripple Creek.
In the late 1950’s, Dr. Anderson was featured in a newspaper article that was nationally distributed by the Associated Press. She also enjoyed the publicity of being featured in an occasional magazine story. Because of this publicity, Ethel Barrymore became aware of Doc Susie’s fascinating story and offered to make a movie about her life. Dr. Anderson declined. Nevertheless, as a professional, she inspired the young girls of Fraser to pursue goals loftier than the drudgery their mothers endured.
Doc Susie: the True Story of a Country Physician in the Colorado Rockies by Virginia Cornell