Life Story / Obituary
It is with sorrow that we announce the passing of Dr. Sandra Pickman Last, MD, 86, of Grand Rapids, Michigan. She died peacefully on September 27, 2021, with family by her side.
Sandra was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, in the middle of the Great Depression. The daughter of immigrants, she attended college at Washington University, where she earned an A.B. in 1955. After working for a few years as a phlebotomist, she made the decision to commit herself to the practice of medicine at a time when women were still being actively discouraged from entering the profession. She graduated from Wayne State University in 1962 with a class that was more than 95% male.
She chose to specialize in Radiology at New York University, where she completed her residency training in 1966. Years later, when asked why she chose radiology, she said, “I loved the technical challenge of solving the puzzle. Other doctors got to see one or two interesting patients in a day; I got to see all of them!”
After completing her training Sandy worked for the Veteran’s Administration in Washington D.C. in the early 1970s. She originally intended to move to Grand Rapids for only one year, but her talent, her determination, and her hard work earned her a permanent position at Blodgett Hospital, where she stayed until health issues forced her to retire.
In addition to her commitment to her patients, she was very active in teaching medical students and residents. She enjoyed the challenge of getting them to think for themselves and always emphasized the importance of basic medicine, anatomy, and physiology. Many of her students remembered her fondly and remained in touch after their careers took them across the country.
She is survived by two children, Eve Pickman and Andrew Last, daughter-in-law Ronda Last (neé Harkness), as well as three grandchildren, all of whom inherited her curiosity and life-long love for learning and teaching others.
After retirement, she was able to indulge her multiple hobbies full-time. She loved dogs, especially German Shorthaired Pointers and Boston Terriers, and enjoyed their company from early childhood until the day she died. She cared for others and believed deeply in charity; while many people her age gave money to the poor, she chose to work “hands-on” at Gleaner’s Food Pantry. Her commitment to education will live on in the scholarship she endowed with the Grand Rapids Foundation (www.grfoundation.org), which will help local students with potential take their studies as far as they can.