Oct. 13, 1918 — Sept. 10, 2019
Perhaps as a result of a tragedy that devastated her family, the death of her beloved younger brother Paul to a burst appendix at the age of 7, Ann Anderson passionately wanted to become a physician.
But in her day, medical schools were not welcoming women.
Then a chance encounter changed her life, said Dr. Donald A. Tracy, one of her two surviving sons, who are both physicians.
Dr. Ann Anderson Tracy, a Buffalo native and medical pioneer who worked as a pediatrician and a child psychiatrist, died Sept. 10, 2019, one month short of her 101st birthday, in a hospital in Lake Worth, Fla. She had lived in Lake Worth since 1977.
After getting her bachelor’s degree in the sciences in 1940, Dr. Tracy applied to the University at Buffalo medical school but was rejected because she was a woman, she told her family. She applied again while working as a hematology technician at a Buffalo hospital. There, she had a pivotal conversation with a patient.
“She was drawing blood for the patient and they were chatting,” said her son. “The patient asked her, ‘Ann, is this really what you want to do for the rest of your life?’ and she said no, that she really wanted to become a physician, but she was frustrated because she had applied to medical school at the University at Buffalo already, and they would not consider her because she was a woman. She had reapplied but had not heard anything, and she didn’t know what to do.”
It turned out that her patient was a dean at the University at Buffalo medical school, and he did know what to do.
“He arranged for her to have an interview literally the next day, and two days later she got the word that she was accepted” into the Class of 1947, said her son. “She was obviously very grateful, and she told me that story many, many times.”
The path was far from easy – between recurring tuberculosis and its arduous cures, marriage and the birth of three sons, Dr. Tracy fought to get that M.D. But she eventually succeeded, working in both pediatrics and child psychiatry.
Dr. Tracy was born in Buffalo, the daughter of Ernest Anderson, the longtime advertising director for the Buffalo Evening News, and his wife Anna. Dr. Tracy was the third youngest in a family of seven.
She graduated from Holy Angels Academy, then earned a bachelor’s degree in the sciences from Trinity College in Washington, D.C., in 1940.
While drawing blood, she recognized malaria on a slide containing the blood of her longtime friend and future husband, Charles W. Tracy, after his return from the Pacific Theater in World War II.
Dr. Tracy had completed three years of medical school and was excelling academically, her son said, when she was diagnosed with tuberculosis.
Her treatments included long stays at the Trudeau Sanitarium in Saranac Lake, where exposure to the fresh air, even in the winter, was considered healing. Her health improved, and she married Charles W. Tracy in September 1947 in Buffalo. They had three sons.
In 1954, she was again sent to the Trudeau Sanitarium and had part of a lung removed. While she was away, her third son, Ernest, who was born with Down syndrome, died at age 6.
When her health improved, Dr. Tracy returned to medical school, graduating with the Class of 1958.
She completed a residency in pediatrics at Buffalo Children’s Hospital in 1961, then entered private practice as a pediatrician, with an office on Bidwell Parkway.
“In that era, physicians were still making house calls,” said her son. “I remember the phone ringing right off the hook, morning, noon and night.”
Dr. Tracy became concerned that the demands of the work would damage her health, so she completed a residency in psychiatry in 1968. She practiced child psychiatry at Buffalo State Hospital and at the West Seneca State School.
After the Blizzard of ’77, Charles W. Tracy decided to retire from his job as an executive with New York Telephone. Dr. Tracy followed suit, and late that year, the pair moved to Lake Worth, Fla., where she developed her skill in and love of golf. She won the women’s championship at the Lake Worth Golf Course at age 85 and played until she was 97.
Charles W. Tracy died in 2003 after 56 years of marriage.
Besides Dr. Donald A. Tracy, Dr. Tracy is survived by a second son, Dr. Charles A. Tracy, and four grandchildren.
In accord with her wishes, there will be no formal memorial service, her son said.