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Pioneering York doctor slighted: ‘She felt … her professional status was well established’

Dr. Rachel Witmyer was part of the team responsible for opening West Side Osteopathic Hospital in 1945.

That hospital was a successor to Edmund Meisenhelder’s West Side Sanitarium and a forerunner of Memorial Hospital.

She had opened her own practice seven years before. And other female doctors had preceded her in York County.

Dr. Martha Bailey of Dillsburg was one.

Ruth Kammer’s “Inside West Side” names at least two other early 20th-century female osteopaths: Emma E. Donnelly and Rachel E. Walker.

Florence La Rose Ames’ “That Sovereign Knowledge,” a history of York Hospital, lists Elizabeth G. B. Cannon as an intern in 1939.

So, at least a handful of women had been practicing medicine around the county for years.

But not enough to prevent an incident that dismayed Witmyer one day soon after West Side opened.

Kammer wrote that a nurse refused to let Witmyer see her patient’s chart, stating that such records were only accessible to the doctor.

“This surprised Dr. Witmyer for she felt, as a Founder, her professional status was well established in the hospital,” Kammer wrotes.

Witmyer, who died this week, went on to a long career in medicine.

She retired in 1981 to care for her husband, Lester, who died in 1994.

“I think she would have practiced probably longer . . . had Dad not been ill,” her son, Greg told the York Daily Record/Sunday News.

She left a record as a pioneer in York County’s medical community.