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The Martins in Fiji, February 1924

Fiji Class photograph

Among the many places to which Dr. Franklin H. and Isabelle Martin traveled, was a short stop in Suva, Fiji Islands, on their way to Australia in 1924. As always, Dr. Martin found medical personnel with whom he could meet.

The Archives contain photos and scrapbook memorabilia about the Martins’ stopover in Suva, as well as some of Dr. Martin’s letters to various individuals back home recounting his experiences and reflections from the Islands. A portion of a letter to George Crile, ACS President (1916-17), Chairman of its Board of Regents (1913-39), and close personal friend of Martin is excerpted below. (Ellipses generally indicate either a word or words not understood by the transcriber.)


“We jumped from Saturday to Monday, and landed in Suva, the Fijis…. Another tropical paradise nestling in the crescent of a bay at the foot of mountain-like hills covered with tropical …..of green and color. The houses peeping above the….with red tiled roofs lent a Panama charm to the scene. …With but six hours we had to hurry. Three doctors recorded in the telephone directory. A beautiful hospital, a war memorial on the hill. This we visited, Richard Smith, our wives and I. The hospital is in charge of an Englishman, Mr. P. Harper, and FRCS. Dr. Montague of the island is Chief surgeon and physician. A bright appearing woman…Pankurst is the superintendent. They conduct a training school for nurses that admits native as well as English women. They have two grades, a three year graduation and a one year service. The latter is particularly adapted to the native women from the various islands. They are taught the fundamentals and are then sent back to their people. Both classes are intelligent and adequate in appearance.

The most interesting and picturesque organization they have is a medical school conducted for native Fiji and Indians. There was a class of thirteen, ten Fijis and three Indians. They take a three years’ course at the Dispensary and hospital at Suva. The whole class lined up and Dr. Smith, our official photographer, got a good picture of them……..

The Fiji War Memorial Hospital is situated high on the hill overlooking the beautiful bay and the surrounding mountains. It is three stories high with an outdoor dispensary in one wing on the ground floor. It is built of concrete with large porches, broad open doors, and French windows in-screened. There is a separate wing in which is located an up-to-date operating room, an x-ray….and a laboratory. …..The hospital will accommodate 65 patients. The kitchen is on the third floor, connecting with other floors by electric elevators and dumb waiters. The records are meager but definite. The grounds are ample with tennis courts and other comforts of life. Dr. Harper and ….Pankhurst are enthusiasts……….”


Another letter about impressions of Fiji is addressed to a child, most likely a relative, is excerpted below:

Dr Martin and Anne

“Mrs. Martin has adopted little Anne, whose mother is in a mad house and she (Anne) lives at the hospital. She is there. She is a little bronze plaything. One little slip she wears, which she prefers to wear not at all, or hanging from one hip. In the picture she is lovingly hanging with one arm around her adopted papa’s neck. She is a little beauty and she longed to go with us.

Everywhere we go it is interesting and beautiful. The sun and the clouds and the beautiful sea are fairly vying with each other to make us glad. They dance on their tiptoes and wave as the Premier surgeon and his court majestically, disdainfully pass by…… The Polar star in mid-ocean handed us over to the southern Cross under whose guidance we now guide…

Much love…..FHM”

To learn more about materials of interest in the “Martin Memoirs”, contact the ACS Archivist.