Florence Brookhart Yount (1909-1988)

Inducted in 1990

yount 90Used by permission from Sharlot Hall Museum

“She received each person as if their interests were her only one, and was always patient and considerate, even in the most harried of times.”
— Elizabeth Ruffner, former co-worker

Florence Brookhart Yount shaped the medical history of Prescott as the first woman physician to devote her career to that community. To help children, she specialized in obstetrics and pediatrics, but she also energetically supported civic projects that improved public health. This determined, take-charge person won the love and respect of her neighbors by her life-long willingness to help those in need.

Florence Hecune Brookhart was born to Smith Brookhart and Jennie (Hecune) Brookhart on March 5, 1909. Growing up in a small midwestern town, as one of seven children, probably formed the values of her life. She commented once that all her neighbors were friendly and interested in each other, wanting everyone to do well. Her father fostered independence with his philosophy that “Children should do what they wanted to do, but they had to take the results of their own bad judgments.”

In 1922 Smith Brookhart was elected to the United States Senate, and five years later the family moved to Washington, D.C., to be with him. There Florence attended George Washington University and medical school. At an early age, she had expressed interest in science, which developed into the desire to study medicine. Her father tried to dissuade her, fearing that being a doctor would be too hard a life. When she made him realize that she did not want to be anything else, he gave his full support. Florence succeeded as one of five women in a class of eighty-eight.

She met her future husband, C. E. “Ned” Yount, Jr., at school. From Prescott, he had chosen medical studies so that he could join his father’s practice. After finishing their internships at the Washington, D.C., hospital, Ned returned to Prescott to begin practicing, and Florence went to do a residency in pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital in Chicago. When she completed her studies, she and Ned married on June 22, 1936, at her parents’ home in Iowa. For their honeymoon, they traveled to Prescott.

Upon her arrival, Florence took the state medical board examination so that she could practice in Arizona. When she received her license, she joined her husband and father-in-law’s practice in the old Masonic Temple building. The office had its own x-ray equipment and laboratory suited to their practice of general medicine. At first Florence encountered some prejudice against women doctors, but she took it in stride, feeling that it was their problem, not hers.

She proved to be an excellent physician with a personal touch. Soon Florence had many loyal patients. Always gracious and attentive, she made house calls, tended to emergencies involving children at the county hospital, answered questions by phone, and saw patients at her office. If someone could not pay cash, she accepted payment in kind, usually flagstone from the quarry workers near Prescott. She also received the respect of the other doctors in town, as they appreciated her skill and specialized knowledge. Eventually, “Doctor Pat” delivered entire families and subsequent generations.

Florence was proud of these babies, and she followed their activities as they grew, cheering them on. A loyal fan of the Prescott High School Badger football team, she was especially proud when one of “her babies” was playing. She paid special attention to children who had survived premature births thanks to improving technology.

Shortly after setting up practice, Florence noticed that the state did not have a well-baby clinic. Therefore, she established one at an existing medical clinic in Prescott. The staff gave out canned milk and vitamins in great quantity, conducted physical checkups, and provided shots. At one point, the clinic saw as many as thirty babies in one day. Following the instruction she had received during her training in Chicago, Dr. Yount limited the use of drugs and encouraged good diets to create “Grade A” babies, as she called them. After a year, the county physician credited the clinic for the good news that not a single child had died during the summer. As the Depression of the 1930s faded, the need for the well-baby clinic lessened.

During World War II, Dr. Yount played a significant role in the Prescott medical community. As the younger doctors, including her husband, left for the war, she, her father-in-law, and a few other older doctors were all that remained to care for the people of Prescott. Consequently, she became more involved in obstetrics than ever before.

Most of her work — general cases as well as deliveries and pre-natal care — took place in her office. The only hospital in the region, Mercy Hospital, had burned down in 1940. A limited facility run by registered nurse Catherine Lennox took accident and maternity cases. Here Florence gave birth to her son John in 1940.

Dr. Yount led the movement to reopen a community hospital in Prescott. The town’s leaders decided to remodel the unused Jefferson School — a mammoth task since funds, materials, and equipment were being funneled to the war effort. Florence gathered items wherever she could. Once she used a portion of her precious gasoline ration to drive to the abandoned Golden Turkey Mine to claim a stove for the hospital. She also persuaded retired nurses to come back to work. Finally everything was ready. The new Prescott Community Hospital opened March 1, 1943, and Florence delivered the first baby there at nine o’clock that evening.

The hospital expanded after the war, but eventually doctors and patients could no longer make do in the crowded space. Led by Florence, the medical community started lobbying the people of Prescott to build a new, well-equipped hospital that could serve everyone.  Campaigning for the new hospital took much of Florence’s time, but she lent her aid to other medical causes as well. She participated in county, state, and national medical societies, and worked to bring Blue Cross and Blue Shield to Arizona. She also helped organize the polio campaign for Yavapai County, with the goal of immunizing everyone.

In 1949 she joined the State Public Welfare Board, which oversaw the distribution of grants to programs helping crippled children, the blind, Indian children needing an education, and many others. She dealt with political issues and limited funds during her time on the board.

Florence had lively interests outside the medical field. She belonged to the United Methodist Church and headed the teenage division for Sunday School. A charter member of the Mountain Artist Guild, she enjoyed the outdoors and her flower garden.

In 1973 Florence and her husband retired. In later years, she discovered “rock hounding” when her sister took a geology course at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. Florence collected many specimens, displaying her rocks in the flower beds and along the top of the fence. Another hobby was a labor of love: every fall she opened the “Yount Cookie Factory,” baking hundreds of cookies to distribute to friends and patients on Christmas Eve.

Through her husband’s family, Florence developed a keen interest in the history of Prescott. She, herself, knew such historical figures as Sharlot Hall and Grace Sparkes. Using her knowledge of medicine, Dr. Yount researched the history of Prescott hospitals and of territorial medicine. See Echoes of the Past, volume 2, edited by Robert C. Stevens for her work in the latter topic. She also wrote a history of the Methodists in Prescott as historian of the centennial committee at her church. For many years she was an active member of the Sharlot Hall Museum, and helped in the acquisition and restoration of the Fremont House, having done research on John C. Fremont and his family.

Dr. Florence B. Yount had a lasting impact on the medical community of Prescott. As the first woman physician to devote her life to that town, she overcame prejudice by her total concern for each and every patient. She also worked outside her office to remedy the medical needs of the community. This well-loved, well-respected woman died on November 25, 1988. Her contributions professionally and personally to Prescott will always remain.