Biographical / Historical
Bailey K. Ashford (1873-1934) is best known as an American medical official who helped combat hookworm and other tropical diseases in Puerto Rico. Born on September 28, 1873, Bailey K. Ashford was the son of Francis Ashford, a professor and dean at the Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. During his studies, the younger Ashford transferred from George Washington Univeristy to the Georgetown University Medical School. After graduating in 1896, Ashford enlisted in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. During the Spanish-American War, Ashford first served in Cuba and then in Puerto Rico. After the war, he remained in Puerto Rico as a U.S. Army doctor. Ashford lived in Puerto Rico for decades, and he led the effort to combat tropical diseases there. In 1899, he became head of the Ponce General Hospital. After a hurricane on August 8, 1899, Ashford coordinated relief efforts at the hospital.
While in Puerto Rico, Ashford discovered that anemia (uncinariasis), which ran rampant among the rural population in Puerto Rico, was transmitted by hookworms that entered the body through the feet. Ashford led the treatment effort, and he was successful in reducing the number of deaths and occurrences of the disease. Ashford helped to create medical organizations to advance his mission. In 1904, the Puerto Rico Anemia Commission was established. In 1908, the commission became the Anemia Dispensary Service. Although anemia was the main focus, Ashford sought to treat other tropical diseases, too. In 1912, Ashford and his cohorts started the Institute of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Puerto Rico. The School of Tropical Medicine was established in 1934 as a means of preparing doctors and researchers for work against tropical diseases. Ashford rarely left Puerto Rico. However, he served as a medical officer in the U.S. Army during World War I.
In February 1899, Ashford married Maria Asuncion Lopez Nussa of Puerto Rico. Bailey K. Ashford's autobiography entitled, "A Soldier in Science" was published in 1934. Bailey K. Ashford died on September 10, 1934 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
[Source: "Ashford, Bailey K." Encyclopedia de Puerto Rico online].