Retired nursing professor writes book on Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte

Susan La Flesche Picotte, MD,

Susan La Flesche Picotte, MD,

A retired UNMC College of Nursing professor has documented Susan La Flesche Picotte’s, MD, many contributions to health care, Nebraska and the Omaha tribe in a new book.

Dr. La Flesche Picotte became the first Native American doctor in the United States in 1889, a time when neither women nor Native Americans had the right to vote. She returned to the Macy reservation to serve her people, the Omaha tribe, when disease ran rampant through reservations and no antibiotics existed to treat infections.

A detailed look at her dedication to the Omaha tribe, the diseases and issues she helped navigate and her lasting legacy can be found in “Healer: Susan La Flesche Picotte,” a new book written by Nancy Waltman, PhD, a professor UNMC College of Nursing for more than 40 years.

Dr. Waltman said Dr. La Flesche Picotte’s dedication to her tribe inspired her to write the book, which is her first.

Nancy Waltman, PhD

“This would’ve been emotionally and physically exhausting for her, because Omaha people were in such desperate need of medical care,” Dr. Waltman said. “Ninety-five percent of medications we use today were not available when Dr. La Flesche Picotte practiced in the 1890s.”

What stood out to Dr. Waltman was Dr. La Flesche Picotte’s approach to treatment and management of patients. Knowing medications were not an option, Dr. Picotte instead focused on prevention by emphasizing isolation, hand washing, clean water and effective water and sewage systems.

“She knew that her priority would not be to prescribe medications for treating infectious disease,” Dr. Waltman said. “Instead, her priority would be to prevent infections, and prevention meant promoting sanitation. She was really a leader in public health education for all of Nebraska.”

Dr. Waltman first became familiar with Dr. La Flesche Picotte during a dedication of the latter’s statue at the Centennial Mall in Lincoln in 2021. Dr. Waltman found that the changes Dr. La Flesche Picotte implemented exist to this day, and her impact on Nebraska history resonated with Dr. Waltman.

“I wanted to write something that was meaningful, something I was interested in and something I knew a little about,” Dr. Waltman said. “I have had 50 years experience with health care, so I have some knowledge in this area. I was born in Nebraska near the farm homesteaded by my great-grandparents, and I lived in Lincoln for 40 years, so I have always been interested in Nebraska history.”

Those who pick up the book, Dr. Waltman said, will find vibrant illustrations and paintings, including those of the Omaha people, other famous Nebraskans from the 1890s and the herbal plants that were often used medicinally in those times. Readers also will learn about the challenges the Omaha people faced and how Nebraska’s growing population impacted Native American people.

The book is available for purchase on online sites such as Amazon.



  1. Beth Beam says:

    Nicely done Dr. Waltman. Writing leaves a legacy. Thank you for taking this on. Cheers, Beth Beam

  2. Carol Russell says:

    This is wonderful, but please clarify that Dr. Susan was the first Native American physician, male or female.
    Carol Russell

    1. Jeffrey Robb says:

      Yes, absolutely.

    2. Clint Waltman says:

      Hi Carol,

      I’m Nancy’s son, Clint. Thanks for your question.

      Susan La Flesche Picotte was the first Native American physician (MD), male or female.

      Also if you’re interested you can watch a mini-documentary here:

  3. Carol Russell says:

    Where do we get the book?

    1. Jeffrey Robb says:

      The book is available for purchase on online sites such as Amazon.

  4. Ann Berger says:

    This book continues the legacy of Nancy Waltman, who is a bright and compassionate woman and nurse! She leaves her mark as a clinician, researcher, and in service. I look forward to reading this book and think it would be an ideal gift to others this holiday season.

  5. Kathy Duncan says:

    This book is incredibly well written. It provides insight into the living and working conditions for Dr. Picotte’s practice. It’s well researched and referenced. Congrats, Nancy!

  6. Nancy Waltman says:

    A color and signed edition is available by sending $30 to Nancy Waltman, PO box 22784 Lincoln NE 68624. The illustrations and paintings are much clearer in color. Thank you.

    1. Lola Cash says:

      I did not see this until after I had ordered it from Amazon. I am excited to read it. Lola Cash

  7. Sasha Shillcutt MD says:

    I can’t wait to read this. Well done!

  8. Laura Bilek says:

    Well done, Dr. Waltman! Excellent book. I highly recommend it.

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