By Joan Fudala
Today, Scottsdale’s Cure Corridor brings patients, providers and potential cures together in Scottsdale. With world-renowned healthcare companies like Mayo Clinic and Scottsdale Lincoln Health Network located in Scottsdale, as well as the myriad of health and wellness centers, spas, clinics and care facilities, Scottsdale is a mecca for curing or treating what ails us. Scottsdale Lincoln Health Network is Scottsdale’s largest employer, and medical tourism is a growing trend—both of which positively impact Scottsdale’s economy and quality of life.
Long before we had wonder drugs and miraculously effective medical technology, people came to Scottsdale for the curative features of our warm, dry climate. Tuberculosis (TB), polio and cancer are just some of the major diseases that have impacted Scottsdale residents and visitors over the decades, some have been nearly cured; others have treatments and cures that are in active research.
Consider these small doses of Scottsdale illness and treatment history:
Commander of the Army of the Pacific Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell, during an 1866 visit to his namesake Fort McDowell, was appalled to find soldiers suffering from scurvy. Soldiers at this remote outpost were not only fighting and patrolling in the area of the Salt and Verde rivers, but they were spending time trying to grow food for themselves and their horses. Gen. McDowell immediately attended to the malnutrition among his troops by hiring civilian contractors to create a hay camp nearby. That hay camp became the settlement of Phoenix, and, as settlement of the area continued, led to the homesteading of Scottsdale.
During the first decades after Scottsdale’s settlement in 1888, residents turned to their neighbors on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community for advice in treating ailments ranging from lung problems to arthritis. Native Americans had found curative desert plants that alleviated symptoms and provided some comfort. As an example, Patricia Myers wrote in her book “Scottsdale: Jewel in the Desert,” about former Kansas City resident Minnie Elliott’s miracle cure after she and her husband, theRev. Judson Elliott, moved to Scottsdale in the 1890s. “Mrs. Elliott, a victim of tuberculosis, had been told she had six months to live and had decided to make her last weeks count. So she went to the reservation to teach the Indians hygiene and nutrition. The Indians, in return, worked to restore her health. They had her lie in warm sand under mesquite trees and gave her herb teas. Within six months her lungs had cleared, and she lived to be 82 years old.”
Many early Scottsdale settlers were sent here by their doctors in the Midwest or East Coast to ease the traumas of asthma, tuberculosis—often called consumption—and other lung problems that were aggravated by breathing cold, moist, polluted air. Founder/namesake Winfield Scott envisioned Scottsdale as an ideal location for a TB sanatorium, which never came to pass. Health camps sprouted up throughout the Salt River Valley, including the Graves Guest Ranch, a haven for rest and recuperation on the northwest corner of Scottsdale and Indian School roads, which opened circa 1910. There were no doctors or nurses on the staff; however, guests benefited from light activities such as croquet and horseback rides in the desert and from healthy meals using Scottsdale-grown produce, especially citrus fruit and vegetables.
Mrs. A. C. Witt operated Witt’s Sanitorium [sic] for Tuberculars in Paradise Valley in the 1920s. Its brochure said, in part, “The climate is ideal and the road to health is assured if under spiritual surroundings, proper food and care are given.” A full-fledged TB sanatorium south of Scottsdale on Curry Road was also available for treatment, but, sadly, not for cures. Tuberculosis is still a worldwide problem, with an estimated 30 percent of the world’s population infected with the disease. Thankfully, effective treatments are available.
After World War I, additional “lungers” were advised to come to the warm, dry Phoenix/Scottsdale area since many soldiers had been exposed to poison gas in the trenches in Europe and had chronic breathing problems.
The Great Spanish Flu Epidemic swept the nation and Arizona in 1918-19. According to Scottsdale resident and Arizona’s Official Historian Marshall Trimble in his book “Diamond in the Rough”: “During the height of the epidemic, social gatherings and sporting events were prohibited and even pool halls were closed to prevent folks from gathering unnecessarily…citizens in Tucson and Phoenix were required to wear a gauze ‘flu’ mask in public. A special police unit arrested those going in public unmasked.” Kissing and shaking hands during the epidemic were also strongly discouraged.
During the town’s first few decades, Scottsdale residents relied on home cures or trips into Phoenix for medical care until the farm town got its first pharmacy in the 1920s and its first resident doctor in the 1930s. The commute for medical care was finally shortened when the City Hospital of Scottsdale opened on Osborn Road just east of Scottsdale Road in May 1962 (it is now Scottsdale Lincoln Health Network’s Osborn campus).
Although polio—also known as infantile paralysis—had been a dreaded and incurable disease for many years, it reached epidemic proportions in the late 1940s and 1950s. As Scottsdale transitioned from an isolated farming community to a popular tourist destination and growing business center after World War II, residents united in their efforts to combat polio. One of the leaders of the Scottsdale area Cure Polio movement was Elliott Roosevelt, son of the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was perhaps the most famous victim of polio. Elliott enlisted local businessmen to have a Fathers’ March that paralleled the Mothers’ March of Dimes to raise money for polio research. The Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce, soon after organizing in 1947, raised money to buy an iron lung—the common treatment for polio cases that affected the respiratory system.
In April 1955, Arizona’s State Health Commissioner Dr. C.G. Salsbury addressed members of the Scottsdale PTA, urging them to get their children inoculated with the first doses of the polio vaccine newly developed by Dr. Jonas Salk. Sixty years ago this month, as Scottsdale children queued up at the town’s two grammar schools for shots, the Salk vaccine was considered one of the most significant advances in preventative medicine. The vaccine helped to alleviate fears of children and adults that polio might affect them, or put them in an iron lung for the rest of their lives.
Just weeks before the City Hospital of Scottsdale opened in May 1962, Dr. Albert Sabin personally visited Scottsdale to dispense his new and improved polio vaccine. Members of the City Hospital of Scottsdale Auxiliary assisted Sabin in dispensing the oral vaccine in sugar cubes at clinics held at Arcadia High School and other local facilities. While in town, Sabin and his family stayed at the Mountain Shadows resort in Paradise Valley.
Thanks to the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines, the disease has been conquered in the United States. Rotary International and its Scottsdale chapters have continued to work to eradicate polio throughout the world.
For “Zonies” interested in the legacy of Dr. Jonas Salk, during a future trip to San Diego, they can visit the Salk Institute of Biological Studies at its scenic coastal location in La Jolla. For information on public tours of the Louis I. Kahn-designed facility, visit www.salk.edu.
Scottsdale medical facilities have been at the leading edge of cures and diagnostics since the 1960s. Then-Scottsdale Memorial Hospital-Osborn was the first in the United States to have a free-standing outpatient surgery center, and the first in Arizona to use a two-second CT scanner with full body capability, install an MRI for diagnostics and use the DaVinci robot-assisted surgical system.
The Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center was dedicated in December 2001 on the Shea campus of Scottsdale Healthcare. Affiliations with International Genomics Consortium, T-Gen and other cancer research centers brought a new level of treatment and hope to cancer patients throughout the Scottsdale area and those traveling here for treatment or to participate in clinical trials. The Scottsdale Clinical Research Institute at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center premiered in 2005, further elevating breakthrough studies being conducted in Scottsdale.
The famed Mayo Clinic of Rochester, Minnesota, opened a Scottsdale campus in 1987. During its 28 years in Scottsdale, Mayo has evolved into an integrated, multi-campus system that include the Mayo Clinic, Samuel C. Johnson Research Building and the Mayo Clinic Collaborative Research Building on Shea Boulevard in Scottsdale and the Mayo Hospital campus on the Scottsdale-Phoenix border. Mayo also operates an outpatient clinic on Thunderbird Road in Scottsdale. Among its many specialties is transplantation. Mayo performed the first liver transplant in the Phoenix area in 1999 and the area’s first laparoscopic living donor kidney transplant. Mayo has been a pioneer in bone marrow transplants. Mayo will also introduce proton beam therapy to the area for cancer treatment when a new facility opens on the hospital campus in 2016.
Ailments such as Valley fever, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, cancers of all types and other life-altering conditions are subjects of study at Scottsdale Healthcare, Mayo Clinic, ASU and other area medical facilities. Branding the Scottsdale area’s treatment and research facilities as “Scottsdale’s Cure Corridor” (announced in fall 2013) brings further recognition to the talent and tenacity it will take to cure what ails us far into the future. These and other diseases are also the focus of numerous fund-raising activities supported by Scottsdale civic and charitable organizations. From the March of Dimes walks, to the Komen Race for the Cure, and the recent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, we’ll all share in the celebration when these diseases are relegated to the history books.