The McCracken/MacCracken Family History of Medicine

Dr. Josiah Calvin McCracken, 1874-1962, Penn MD ’01. While at Penn, Joe was an outstanding All-American guard in football and also excelled in track and field, breaking the world record in the 16-pound hammer throw in 1898. He won a silver medal in the shotput and a bronze medal in the hammer at the 1900 Paris Olympics. Joe was the Associate editor of The Pennsylvanian and very active in the Christian Association of the University.

Of his eight children, three became physicians with strong ties to the University of Pennsylvania.

  • Dr. Mary Elizabeth McCracken, 1911-1945, Penn MS ‘33 was the third daughter of the “McCrackens of Shanghai.” She followed in her father’s footsteps to become a physician practicing in China. Her journey was not easy, as she contracted infantile paralysis (polio) at thirteen months of age and lost the use of her legs. Mary lived an amazing life of determination and persistence, never letting others perform tasks that she could do herself. She was known as “The indomitable Mary.” Her father and physical therapist mother supported her all the way, as did her seven siblings. Away from her parents, Mary spent many of her childhood and teenage years in the USA, receiving special physical therapy and education. With the help of her two older sisters, Helen and Margaret, Mary was able to graduate from Lake Erie College in 1931. She then earned her master’s degree in anatomy from the University of Pennsylvania in 1933. Holding strongly to her dream of becoming a doctor and with the assistance of an aide and a rickshaw, Mary returned to Shanghai, and graduated first in her class from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School of St. John’s University. After completing an internship year and working in the pediatric division for another year, she returned to the USA for her residency training in pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. While her hope to care for the children of China ultimately came true, her medical missionary service was cut short by the Sino-Japanese War and WWII. Consonant with war the Japanese government ultimately prohibited foreign doctors to work in China.  Mary and her parents were positioned to return to America in 1942; tragically, on the long voyage home, Mary fell gravely ill with damaging cerebral destruction and was hospitalized until her death in 1945. She had been a most courageous, dedicated physician.
  • Dr. Josiah Calvin McCracken, Jr, 1912-2003, Penn BA ’36, Penn MD ‘40, also played varsity football as half-back for Penn for three years and was known as the “Shanghai Express,” at 145 lbs. Following graduation he completed his internship and residency in surgery at Atlantic City Hospital. For four years during WWII Josiah served in the US Army Medical Corp in the Southwest Pacific and was awarded the Bronze Star for service in the Battle of Bougainville. He practiced surgery, specializing in colon and rectal surgery in Atlantic City from 1946-74 and was a respected member of his medical societies and church community.
  • Dr. Stewart McCracken, 1922-1989, Penn BA ‘42, served in the US Navy 1943-1948 in the Asiatic Theatre, completing residency training in internal medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in 1951. Stewart practiced internal medicine in Philadelphia for many years with a specialty in rheumatology and also worked at the Veterans Administration Hospital.

Two grandchildren and one great grandchild of Dr. Josiah Calvin McCracken Sr., are Penn alumni.

  • Dr. Joan MacCracken, Penn MD ’71 grew up in Tenafly, New Jersey. After completing her undergraduate degree at Denison University in 1967, Dr. MacCracken began her medical education at the University of Pennsylvania. Following graduation in 1971 Joan joined the University of Colorado Medical Center for two years of pediatric residency and a first-year endocrine fellowship. From 1974-76, she and her husband served in the Indian Health Service in Crownpoint, New Mexico, caring for the Navajo people. She then completed her final pediatric endocrine fellowship year at Boston Children’s Hospital. Venturing north to Bangor, Maine, Dr. MacCracken started the first pediatric endocrinology practice in the state. Over her 23 years of rural endocrinology practice, she traveled for medical outreach service, working with the Yup’ik natives in Bethel, Alaska and the Miskito people in northeastern Nicaragua.

The origin of the McMac name: Joan’s mother was Martha, twin daughter of Dr. Josiah C. McCracken, Sr.  Martha married Calvin D. MacCracken, her third cousin. Together they had four children. Martha’s relatives and Calvin’s relatives always referred to Joan’s family as the McMacs. In Joan’s medical school yearbook, she dedicated it to her two grandfathers, Josiah C. McCracken, MD and Dr. Henry Noble MacCracken, who were second cousins. Both provided inspirational examples for her.

  • Jim McCracken, Penn BA ‘83, born 1961, is the son of Stewart McCracken. Jim was raised in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania and graduated from Penn in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in American history, minoring in biology. Jim obtained his master’s in science education from the University of Maine at Orono in 1988. His professional career has spanned many aspects of science education, including teaching. Most recently, he is the Operations Manager and Gleaning Coordinator of Willing Hands in Norwich, Vermont.
  • Heather McCracken Cohen, Penn BA ’94, born 1972, is the great granddaughter of Dr. Josiah Calvin McCracken Sr and daughter of Larry McCracken (son of Josiah Calvin, Jr.). Heather graduated from Penn in 1994 with her BA in Biological Basis of Behavior. She obtained her MPH at San Diego State University. As a registered dietician, she has a private practice and also works in Student Health at University of California, San Diego.

For more information on the life of Dr. Josiah Calvin McCracken, refer to Mission to Shanghai by Helen McCracken Fulcher, published by Tiffin Press.


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