Dr. Loy McAfee served as a contract surgeon with the surgeon general's office of the U.S. Army during World War I. She worked on a comprehensive, multivolume history of wartime medicine. At the time, although women physicians were barred from serving in the Army Medical Reserve Corps and, thus, denied benefits equal to those of men, they were still required to wear uniforms and conform to the same standards of conduct.
Loy McAfee was born in Paulding County, near Atlanta, in Georgia, in 1868. She married a physician from New York City, Dr. Inghram, while she was still quite young, and then enrolled to study medicine herself. She graduated with her doctor of medicine degree, from the Indiana Medical College at Indianapolis, in 1904.
Dr. McAfee worked in medical publishing in New York for sixteen years, mostly as an editor, until May 1918, when she was appointed contract surgeon with the United States Army office of the Surgeon General. Women were barred from serving in the Army Medical Reserve Corps until World War II, when the Sparkman Act was signed into law and Margaret Craighill, M.D., became the first woman to serve as a commissioned officer in the United States Army, in 1943. Dr. Loy McAfee worked as a contract surgeon until June 1921, when she was given she was given a civilian post as assistant editor-in-chief to carry on with the work she had begun in 1918.
The multivolume history prepared by McAfee and her colleagues for "The Medical Department if the United States Army in the World War" is an invaluable resource documenting many aspects of wartime medicine. Completed in 1930, it includes descriptions and statistics regarding the injuries and illnesses of soldiers, medical treatments that were tried and tested in the most difficult conditions, and detailed accounts of the transportation of goods and the provision of medical services where needed. The Medical Woman's Journal noted in 1942 that McAfee's approach to the work was vital to the success of the project, in that "she had an orderly mind which was satisfied only with absolute accuracy... It would have been difficukt indeed to find another who could have filled son well the post she occupied in the great work on the World War."
In the 1920s, Dr. McAfee continued her meticulous work on the history of the war and also began a law degree at the National Law School in Washington, "never satisfied with her fund of knowledge," as the journal reported. She graduated with the LL.B. degree in 1926.
When the wartime history project was completed, twelve years after she had begun her work there, Dr. McAfee was reassigned to the historical section of the Army War College. Greatly respected for her archival skills and her dedicated preservation of the historical record, she was later appointed to the Army Medical Library, where she catalogued the forensic materials in the collection and archived autographed letters.
A member of the Association of Military Surgeons, McAfee was well respected for her unusual role in military medicine. She died in 1941, shortly after her retirement, suffering from heart failure after a stomach operation.