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public health advocate
Samuel Jay Crumbine was born in Emlenton, Pennsylvania, on September 17, 1862. He was educated in the local schools and worked as a pharmacist's apprentice in Sugar Grove, PA before moving to Spearville, Kansas in 1885, where he became part owner of a drugstore. The money he made from the drugstore helped Crumbine pay tuition at the Cincinnati College of Medicine and Surgery, from which he received his medical degree in 1889. He then established a practice in Dodge City, Kansas.
Dr. Crumbine was an advocate for public health from the beginning of his career, and always made sure to read the latest research on germs and disease transmission. One of his first successes was to convince Fred Harvey to stop selling milk from open pitchers in his restaurants and railroad dining cars. Soon all restaurants across the state were serving milk in individual bottles.
In 1899, Crumbine was appointed to the Kansas State Board of Health, which at that time had little authority and even less respect. That began to change, however, after Dr. Crumbine used modified quarantine methods and aggressive immunization to squelch an epidemic of smallpox in Pratt in 1902. He became part-time secretary and executive officer of the Board in 1904, and, in 1907, gave up his private practice and moved to Topeka to focus full time on public health work. Under his direction, the Board of Health became a well-funded agency with legal authority.
Having learned that many diseases could be spread by contact with infected surfaces, Crumbine launhed a campaign to "Ban the Public Drinking Cup," and banned their use on railroads and in public buildings in 1909. The campaign spurred sales of the newly-invented Dixie Cup. He also campaigned against the use of common roller towels, which led to widespread adoption of disposable paper towels in public restrooms.
Knowing that flies and rodents were also responsible for disease transmission, Dr. Crumbine led "Swat the Fly" and "Bat the Rat" campaigns to get citizens and governments to practice pest control. Window and door screens became standard on homes, many communities outlawed manure piles and open cesspools, and people across Kansas began carrying flyswatters. Many people and communities also took steps to get rid of rat-friendly environments.
Although popular belief says that the "Don't Spit on the Sidewalk" canpaign was designed to keep proper ladies from stepping on tobacco spit and ruining their dresses, it was actually launched to help stop the spread of tuberculosis, which is easily passed by contact with infected bodily fluids. Crumbine even convinced several brick makers to cast sidewalk bricks bearing the slogan.
To stem diseases caused by unhealthy water, Dr. Crumbine worked to improve the safety of the state's water supplies by calling for improvements in sewage and wastewater treatment, and by 1914 Kansas ranked fourth nationally in the number of towns with sewage treatment plants.
In 1911, Crumbine set up the nation's first postgraduate course for county health officers at the Kansas City medical school campus. His "Save the Baby"campaign of 1914 reduced infant mortality by focusing attention on clean milk, clean mothers, visiting nurses, and child welfare. A division of Child Hygiene was created, and the Kansas system was soon being emulated by states from Rhode Island to Michigan. Dr. Crumbine also warned against misleading labels on food and drugs.
As dean of the University of Kansas Medical School from 1911 to 1915, he used his influence to get state laws passed requiring county commissioners to send the crippled and poor to the School's hospital for treatment, improved the school's entrance requirements, training methods and overall quality of graduates, and elevated it to a position of respect.
Dr. Crumbine resigned from the State Board of Health in 1923 to become executive director of the American Child Health Association, based in New York City. Although he retired in 1936, he still returned to Kansas for occasional speaking engagements. He died in Jackson Heights, New York, on July 12, 1954.
The Samuel J. Crumbine Consumer Protection Award was established by the Conference for Food Protection in 1955 to encourage public health and reward local environmental health jurisdictions that demonstrate unsurpassed achievement in providing outstanding food protection.
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This page was last updated on 06/13/2017.