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Several pictures of doctors who are featured on the Local Legends web site

MEET LOCAL LEGEND: Lucena Axtell, M.D.

Picture of Lucena Axtell
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Lucena Axtell, M.D.

“A woman far ahead of her time, she represents the ideal of what women physicians can do and accomplish.”


Todd Tiahrt



Lucena Chase Axtell, born in Elise, Michigan in 1865, and raised on a farm outside Newton, Kansas in the mid-19th century, went on to become director of Kansas' first school for registered nurses and one of the region's earliest practicing woman physicians. She raised four children, helped establish a community hospital, and built an active medical practice in obstetrics and women's health care. Her story is emblematic of the compassion and determination displayed by women doctors in the late 19th century.

After a plague of grasshoppers devastated the crops on the family farm, Lucena Chase moved with her family to nearby Newton, Kansas. Here, she attended school and later met and married Dr. John Axtell in 1882, starting a tradition of community medical service in the Newton area that continues today, four generations later, with the Axtell Clinic (now part of the Newton Medical Center).

After her marriage, Lucena Chase Axtell not only pursued medicine herself, graduating from medical school while raising a family, (this at a time when few women ventured outside the home), but she promoted the same goals for other women by starting and running the Axtell School of Nursing.

Nominated by Representative Todd Tiahrt (R-KS-4th), Lucena Chase Axtell began her career as an assistant to her well-known husband. She helped him with the founding of the Axtell Hospital in 1886, and by 1893, she was attending the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Kansas City while caring for two daughters. John Axtell, meanwhile was practicing medicine in Newton and commuting weekly to Kansas City to lecture on Orthopedic Surgery and see his family.

Lucena Axtell also set up accommodations and equipment to care for patients with contagious diseases by establishing the Contagious Annex at the hospital, a separated building for all contagious patients.

Doctor Richard M. Glover II, a fourth generation member of the Axtell family, and a physician in Newton, points out that Lucena Axtell was a person of tremendous commitment. "Lucena showed that she could be a mother, successfully attend medical school, and become a doctor almost a hundred years ahead of the current working mothers," said Dr. Glover.

Lucena Axtell was a member of the D.A.R, Colonial Dames, Daughters of Founders and Patriots, County Medical Society and the American Medical Association.

In 1886, when Lucena and John T. Axtell established the Axtell Hospital, they were medical pioneers. The Axtell Hospital was the first in the region and served the community for four decades before it was bequeathed to the Kansas Christian Missionary Society. Over the years it has evolved into the current Newton Medical Center-a legacy to Lucena and John Axtell and their determination to bring the best medicine to their community. At its peak, the Axtell Hospital had seven assisting physicians and thirty student nurses. Patients, drawn by the hospital's reputation for excellence, came from as far west as California.

Lucena Axtell died in 1951.



Helped found Axtell Hospital in Newton, Kansas with her husband, Dr. John T. Axtell


Graduated College of Physicians and Surgeons of Kansas City (later the Kansas University School of Medicine), Kansas City, KS


1865 (died 1951)


College of Physicians and Surgeons of Kansas City (Later the Kansas University School of Medicine)



Sub Specialty

Women's Health Care