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Dr. A.K. Thiell influences modern medicine in Marquette

St. Mary’s Hospital in Marquette

MARQUETTE — Marquette physician Annandale K. Thiell moved to Marquette at the age of nine when his father accepted a job with the Marquette, Houghton, & Ontonagon Railroad in 1867. He was one of six children, but only he and his sister Bessie lived to adulthood. Upon graduation from Marquette High School he left home to study medicine. His studies would take him to Montreal, Philadelphia, and London, prior to returning home. His extensive knowledge and experience led him to excel in surgery and to spearhead the building of St. Mary’s Hospital, the first large, modern hospital in Marquette.

After graduating from McGill University in Montreal, Annandale moved to Philadelphia to attend Jefferson Medical College. Exposure to hands-on learning was a new trend in medical education at the time and Jefferson was one of the first medical schools in the country to establish a teaching hospital. Exposure to this and other modern facets of medical education, such as attending lectures and surgeries in a surgical amphitheater, provided him with the opportunity to develop and hone his surgical skills.

Dr. Thiell stayed in Philadelphia upon graduation to join the staff at Pennsylvania Hospital, founded by Benjamin Franklin and Dr. Thomas Bond in 1751. Public hospitals in the mid-19th century, such as Pennsylvania Hospital, treated individuals who could not afford to be nursed at home. Here he would work in several capacities.

Having a desire to succeed, Thiell traveled to London in 1881 to study clinical medicine. At the time, there was extensive research being conducted in public health and medicine, particularly in examining the link between germs and disease. That August, London hosted the International Medical Congress, which attracted 3000 medical professionals from 70 countries. Three of the presenters were renowned microbiologists Robert Koch of Germany, Louis Pasteur of France, and Englishman Joseph Lister, known for pioneering research in cholera and anthrax, vaccinations, and sterilization technologies implemented in the surgical theater, respectively.

The Prince of Wales in his opening remarks at the Congress, expressed gratitude for the desire of professionals in attendance to not only remedy, but to prevent disease. Koch, Pasteur, and Lister’s findings, along with those of others, were touted in scientific literature around the world. It is unknown whether Dr. Thiell attended the conference, however, his studies would have been greatly influenced by the research cited. His continuing education would have been broadened by memberships in the American Academy of Science and the American Microscopical Society, as well by being a corresponding member of the British Association of Microscopy.

After returning to Philadelphia, a traumatic disabling wound forced Thiell to return to his family in Marquette for recovery, where he decided to stay and open a practice. He became a respected surgeon and by 1890 he was surgeon-in-chief at the emergency hospital, located near Fourth and Rock Streets in Marquette.

Through his emergency work, Dr. Thiell saw the need for a large, modern hospital. He reached out to the Catholic Bishop to request his assistance in encouraging the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, from Peoria, Illinois, to build a hospital in Marquette. This organization had built and was administering five hospitals in the Midwest, including OSF St. Francis in Escanaba.

OSF agreed to the request and, in 1891, a large modern hospital opened on Fisher Street, between Altamont and Fifth, overlooking Lake Superior. (Where the Jacobetti Home for Veterans is located today.) The hospital was named St. Mary’s and Dr. Thiell was appointed medical director and head surgeon.

A charitable institution, St. Mary’s offered 50 beds, the most up-to-date medical equipment, including a top-notch operating room, and an environment that adhered strictly to sanitary practices to reduce the harm that came from germs. The Mining Journal reported that Dr. Thiell with his vast experience would lead the hospital to become the best in the region.

Dr. Thiell served as St. Mary’s medical director for four years. He operated on patients from across the Upper Peninsula and consulted with physicians who brought their patients to the Marquette facility. In 1896, he married Marie Krier of Chicago, and moved to that city, where he lived and worked for close to 20 years. In 1927, weakened by a paralyzing stroke, he died of a heart attack at the age of 68. His remains were returned to Marquette and his body was interred at Park Cemetery. The hospital he pioneered, continued serving patients from Marquette and the Upper Peninsula until it merged with St. Luke’s Hospital in 1973, creating Marquette General Hospital.

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