Dr. Helen Sams dies at age 89

Fayette County’s first female doctor, Dr. Helen Fletcher Sams passed away at home on Saturday, Feb. 23, at the age of 89. She was fondly and respectfully known by most in the Fayette County community as “Dr. Helen.”

Her death follows by less than a month the passing of her husband, Dr. Ferrol Sams, Jr., on Jan. 29. The two had practiced medicine together in Fayetteville for more a half century until their retirement — together — in 2006.

Dr. Helen graduated from Florida State College for Women in 1945 and entered Emory University Medical School, a member of the second class in the history of the school to include women.

At Emory’s request, she spent one year as a teacher of anatomy in order to allow a male physician professor to serve in World War II.

It was in medical school that she met the love of her life, Ferrol A. Sams, Jr. They were married in July 1948.

In 1949, during her senior year, Dr. Helen gave birth to their first child, Ferrol A. Sams, III, who followed in his parents’ footsteps to become a physician, practicing in Fayetteville.

Emory was faced with the unprecedented issue of establishing a maternity leave policy for medical students. After internship the young doctors returned to Fayetteville in 1951, where Dr. Helen was the first female physician to work in Fayette County. Here they reared their family and practiced medicine until their retirement in 2006.

Funeral arrangements and Dr. Helen’s obituary are on Page B2 in the Wednesday, Feb. 27 issue of The Citizen and here.