Liebe Sokol Diamond, M.D.
MSA SC 3520-14531
Dr. Liebe Sokol Diamond was born at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland on January 10, 1931, to Max and Anne Sokol.1 Dr. Diamond was born with ring constrictive syndrome, and as a result lost several of her fingers and toes while in utero.2 The congenital abnormality kept her in Kernan Hospital for the first several months of her life where she was under the care of orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Moses Gelman. Dr. Gelman would continue to play an influential role throughout Dr. Diamond’s life.3
Liebe Diamond’s early life was shaped by many different cultural influences, one of which was the stream of European Jewish refugees who passed through her home as her parents helped as many Jews as possible flee Europe during the increasing crisis of the 1930s. Dr. Diamond recalled in an interview one occasion in which her father and a wealthy family friend forged a letter from their synagogue, thus risking criminal prosecution, to bring eight Jewish families into the United States. The interaction and exposure to so many different individuals shaped her literary, artistic, cultural and intellectual education.4
Dr. Diamond was the only child of Max Sokol, a lawyer, and Anne Hirschhorn Sokol, a Hebrew teacher at Baltimore Hebrew College. Being the only child, she received special attention in terms of her education, and yet otherwise her childhood was remarkably normal, despite her deformities. Dr. Diamond recalled the effect of growing up with a handicap, “My family never treated me with any particular kid gloves, never as if I had any particular problems, just as if I was doing what I should be doing.”5
Because she was an only child, Dr. Diamond says that she received “a
son’s education.”6 Showing a
aptitude for science, Dr. Diamond left home to enroll at Smith College
when she was only 16, graduating magna cum laude in 1951 with a degree
in chemistry and a double minor in physics and zoology.7
After completing her undergraduate degree, Dr. Diamond decided to enter
medical school and was accepted into the University of Pennsylvania
School. At this point in her life, Dr. Diamond and her family
some criticism for their forward-looking approach to female
A member of Dr. Diamond’s synagogue warned her father that she was
too much education and would become “unmanageable,” to which Max Sokol
replied that she was already unmanageable and Liebe continued her
at the University of Pennsylvania.8
Dr. Diamond once spoke about her interest in science:
I was interested in medicine from the time I was fairly young, and I knew I was going to be a doctor, but I had no idea that I was going to be a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. It probably had something to do with (the handicap), but I was interested in science anyway, and I always had the desire to do something special.9
After graduating with her medical degree, Dr. Diamond worked for
one year at Sinai Hospital, at which time she decided that she would
to pursue a career in surgery. Her long-time friend and her own
surgeon, Dr. Gelman, encouraged her to develop the field of pediatric
Intrigued by the idea, Dr. Diamond returned to the University of
College of Medicine to obtain a degree in orthopedic surgery with a
in pediatrics.10 Not
she faced many difficulties being both a woman and handicapped.
Diamond once commented on the challenges faced by the female students:
Looking at in retrospect, maybe some of my rough times were because I was a woman. We were tolerated, in a physical sense, but I can’t say I was discriminated against in any sense. Out of 200 house officers (interns and residents) there were only five women. You took what was dished out, and you shut up and drank your beer. We all thought that if we made any noise, we’d be kicked out.11
Dr. Diamond repeatedly proved herself a skilled surgeon despite
her handicap, eventually becoming one of the most sought-after surgeons
in the orthopedic field When asked if she ever encountered any problems
because of her handicap she responded:
No, not really. Except that I had to learn how to do things differently. I have special gloves made for me. And when I learned to tie a knot I had to work out my own way of doing things, which sometimes unglued the surgeons working with me. They weren’t always sure that the knot was being tied square, but I was.12
Shortly after completing her formal surgical training, Liebe was introduced to a young doctor, Earl L. Diamond who was working at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. The two were married on December 11, 1960.13 A few years later, Liebe gave birth to their only child, Joshua Moses. Joshua certainly had a unique childhood because of his parents interesting careers. Dr. Diamond once commented humorously that because he spent so much of his early childhood playing in her office, “By the time he went to school, he thought he was the only kid in the world without crutches or a wheelchair because all of his friends had them.”14
Once, when Joshua Diamond was at school, the class bully insisted that women could not be doctors, let alone surgeons, so many times that finally the young Diamond asked the teacher to hold his glasses while he defended his mother’s honor.15 Thus challenging traditional roles and stereotypes was not only complicated for Dr. Liebe Diamond, but her family as well. Yet despite such difficulties, the small family flourished, with the two doctors managing their schedules to make as much time for the family as possible. Every morning the Diamond family got up at five o’clock to eat a hot breakfast together, and the family ate dinner together most nights of the week, even if that meant that dinner times had to be adjusted on a daily basis. The doctors strictly observed the Sabbath, saving at least one day a week for family time. This was complemented by the fact that both adhered to a firm rule of not scheduling more than one evening meeting a week.16
Dr. Diamond’s work has had a lasting impact on the field of orthopedic surgery, an impact that is all the more important because of her personal handicap. Dealing with children and parents often facing heartbreaking realities, Liebe Diamond’s example, “takes away some of the rarity of it all…it takes away some of the aloneness, the fear of the future,” she says.17 Dr. Diamond thoroughly enjoyed her work at the hospital because, it was, “an upbeat institution” where people came to “get better and walk away under their own steam.”18 Dr. Diamond found the challenge of individually-catered treatment programs stimulating because, “there isn’t anything cookbook about it: We’re dealing largely with people, there aren’t any two alike. Most of the treatment has to be specially designed.”19
Dr. Diamond ultimately became one of the most respected orthopedic surgeons in the field and helped found the Pediatric Orthopedic Society of North America. On a panel of eight, Liebe Diamond was the only woman. The society now boasts over 400 members in the United States, Mexico and Canada.20
Liebe Diamond’s Judaic faith has always been an important part of her life, even from her early childhood. Not surprisingly, Dr. Diamond also dispelled stereotypes within her religious community when she began participating in traditional male ceremonies and even began wearing traditional male religious garments when she did participate – a change that was very quickly accepted by the members of her community.21
Dr. Liebe Diamond faced many challenges throughout her lifetime as a
minority because of her gender and religion, as well as because of her
physical handicap. Yet despite these hardships, Dr. Diamond built
an incredibly successful professional and personal life.
1. "Diamond, Liebe Deborah Sokol," Listed in Who's Who of American Women, 10th Edition, (Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, Inc., 1977-1978); Liebe Sokol Diamond Oral History, Jewish Museum of Maryland, 10 November 2000, OH 0389.
2. Mary Jane Fine, "Doctor and Former Priest: She Stayed, He Didn't," The News American, 28 November 1980, 1A.
3. Liebe Sokol Diamond Oral History.
7. "Diamond, Liebe Deborah Sokol;" Liebe Diamond Oral History.
8. Liebe Diamond Oral History.
10. Liebe Diamond Oral History.
13. "Diamond, Liebe Deborah Sokol."
16. Liebe Diamond Oral History.
20. Liebe Diamond Oral History; Andrew Scherr, "Two of a Kind: A Pair of Local Jewish Women Are Inducted into the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame," Baltimore Jewish Times, 7 April 2006, 47.
21. Liebe Diamond Oral History.
Biography written by 2006 summer intern Amy Huggins.
Return to Dr. Liebe Sokol Diamond's Introductory Page
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