Las Vegas Sun

October 23, 2019

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DeLee changed childbirth in Vegas

Dr. Sol T. DeLee arrived in Las Vegas in 1964 and was shocked to learn that on average seven women a year died during childbirth in Clark County.

"Physicians didn't share information," he said, citing what he felt was the key reason for the high fatality rate.

A year later, DeLee founded the Las Vegas/Clark County Gynecological Society to get local obstetricians/gynecologists sharing information to improve safety at childbirth.

DeLee went on to be credited with delivering 11 first New Year's Day babies - three in Chicago and eight in Las Vegas - between 1940 and his retirement in 1992.

DeLee died Tuesday. He was 95.

Services for the Southern Nevada resident were Friday in Searchlight, where he lived.

DeLee was the nephew of Dr. Joseph Bolivar DeLee, known by the University of Chicago as the father of modern obstetrical care. In 1931 he founded the Chicago Lying-in Hospital, one of the nation's first premature infant nurseries. Joseph DeLee also appeared on the cover of Time magazine on May 25, 1936.

Sol DeLee followed in his uncle's footsteps, as did Sol's son, Dr. Frank DeLee, who also has delivered several first New Year's Day babies.

One of Sol DeLee's first-of-the-year Las Vegas arrivals was Francisco Salazar, who was born just one tick past midnight on Jan. 1, 1989, at the old Women's Hospital, which DeLee founded. DeLee also served as chief of staff there from 1974 to 1976 and again from 1982 to 1984.

His last first-of-the year delivery was Irene DeLaRosa, born at Women's Hospital four seconds after midnight on Jan. 1, 1992.

At age 77, DeLee delivered his own daughter, Danielle, on Oct. 30, 1988, at Women's Hospital.

At the time, he told the Sun: "I am very active in my practice I intend to go on with it for quite a few more years."

But the aging baby doc soon found himself in hot water.

He had drawn the ire of anti-abortion groups for performing abortions at The Birth Place and the Women's Care Center clinics in Las Vegas.

A Drug Enforcement Administration investigation resulted in 1991 in the revocation of DeLee's authority to issue prescriptions for controlled substances. Federal authorities accused him of selling prescriptions for $25 apiece.

Although he denied that allegation, DeLee opted the next year to surrender his license to practice medicine and retire rather than face a disciplinary hearing before the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners.

Born in Chicago, DeLee had a successful 24-year practice in Illinois before coming to Las Vegas. He was attending physician at Cook County Hospital in Chicago from 1942 to 1946, when it averaged 60 births a day.

From 1942 to 1964, DeLee served as a clinical professor of gynecology at the Chicago campus of the University of Illinois Medical School.

In 1949 he wrote the first of eight editions of his popular child-rearing book "Safeguarding Motherhood." The book went out of print in 1986.

In addition to his son and daughter, DeLee is survived by his wife, Cathryn; another daughter, Nancy; and another son, Garrison.

The family said donations can be made in Dr. Sol DeLee's memory to Lying-In Hospital at the University of Chicago Medical Center.