Lucy Sikorsky (1899-1972)
Dr. Lucy Sikorsky established the foundations of the modern Maricopa County Health Department, a legacy that continues today. Lucy was born in Hill, New Hampshire on January 14, 1899, the daughter of Russian emigrants. Her father was a doctor and Lucy followed in his footsteps, earning her medical degree from Boston University in 1928. She practiced in Massachusetts until 1950 when she joined the Indian Health Service and moved to the San Carlos Indian Reservation in Arizona where she served her patients with great energy and dedication.
She resigned her position there in 1953 because of health issues and later that year was named the Director of the Maricopa County Health Department. At that time, the Department was overseen by a Board run by politicians. Within her first three months, Lucy persuaded the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to change the composition of the Board. Tom Sullivan, Maricopa County Manager at that time said of her efforts, “…for the first time in the history of Maricopa County Government, professionals were making the public health decisions rather than the politicians.”
Under Lucy’s direction, the Health Department instituted sanitary controls, established well-baby clinics, a campaign to reduce tuberculosis infections by making TB tests mandatory in the schools, immunization programs and cleaned out mosquito infested areas in the county. The infant mortality rates in Maricopa County in 1953 were 40.9 per 1,000 live births. Limited by a low budget her first year, Lucy reached out to the Maricopa Medical Society and the Nurses Association to provide assistance and volunteers at the well-baby and maternal health clinics. Between1954 and 1956 she opened sixteen clinics for children. Adam Dias, Chairman of the Board of Friendly House during Dr. Sikorsky’s tenure said of her, “With her enthusiasm and compassion, she soon had hundreds of families who were unable to afford medical care, bringing their children to the clinics to be examined and treated for health problems such as malnutrition, colds, flu and a myriad of other ailments. Through her untiring effort she provided medication, vitamins, baby foods, etc. for untold numbers of children of all colors.”
In the four years she headed the Health Department, her budget increased from $156,000 to $627,907 a year, a tribute to her able and imaginative leadership. She rejuvenated the Department and received national recognition for her outstanding contributions toward the health of the community. Ill health forced her to resign in August of 1957, the same year she received the Distinguished Public Service Award from the Maricopa County Medical Society, the first female physician so honored. Although she never recovered her health, she provided free medical services to several orphanages, including one in Mexico until she was no longer able to do so. She died in 1972.