As a child, Maude Lofton could often be found seeking solace among nature, catching butterflies and observing ants outside her Jacksonville home. Her love of science was only rivaled by her love of learning, which led her down a path to becoming a teacher.
“Most of the people who were instrumental in my life at the time were schoolteachers,” says Lofton, MD ’79. “I would always ask for chemistry sets for Christmas and birthdays, I was in the 4-H Club and I just loved exploring. It was a great escape.”
But a series of serendipitous encounters illuminated a different route: medicine.
After dedicating her career to caring for children as a pediatrician at academic health centers across the nation, Lofton is the latest UF College of Medicine graduate to be inducted into the Wall of Fame, an honor created in 1988 to recognize outstanding alumni who have made contributions to medicine, government, education and the community.
“You do what you do going through life, and you’re not doing it for recognition — you’re just keeping your head down doing the things you think are right, the things that need to be done,” Lofton says. “Then to have someone notice … It’s humbling. I’m grateful for this tremendous honor.”
Upon completing high school at age 16, Lofton landed at Spelman College in Atlanta to study biology during the height of the civil rights movement, immersing herself in peaceful marches and the words of renowned activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Stokely Carmichael. She then went on to work as a medical technologist for nearly a decade.
When she visited UF in the 1970s for information about pursuing a PhD, faculty like James Deyrup and Willie Sanders encouraged her to apply to the MD program — an option she had never thought possible due to her nontraditional path. Medical school brought with it stimulating subject matter and long-lasting bonds with classmates. Though Lofton had contemplated becoming a psychiatrist, her last rotation pushed her toward her true passion.
“One night I was sitting in the nursery with a baby, and my instinct told me, ‘If I’m going to practice medicine for the rest of my life, I’m going to do what I enjoy,’” says Lofton, who went on to become chief resident during her time at University Hospital, which later became UF Health Jacksonville. “I realized in that moment that I got my greatest fulfillment from pediatrics.”
Lofton blazed a path in her 23-year career as a pediatrician who brought a firm but gentle voice to patients and families at each academic health center she practiced at, from the UF College of Medicine and Howard University to the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Louisville.
In Jacksonville, she served on the Mayor’s Commission for Children and Youth and the Governor’s Commission on Children and Youth for the state of Florida; wrote a weekly column for a local newspaper; and received commendations for her child and family advocacy from the city, area churches, the NAACP and more. In Birmingham, she completed advanced training in child development and established a primary care practice onsite for the siblings of pediatric patients enrolled in a long-term drug study.
Though she retired from practicing medicine in 2002, Lofton remains active in medical societies, serves on the boards of various organizations that focus on youth and the arts, and provides philanthropic support for numerous initiatives, including the UF College of Medicine’s Willie J. Sanders Scholarship, named in honor of one of her medical school mentors.
The Colorado resident still spends her free time in the fresh air, playing tennis, skiing, golfing, gardening and taking long walks with her Doberman, Rusty. When she’s not enjoying the outdoors, she’s staying connected with her two children and three grandchildren.
“If there’s one thing I hope they learn from me,” she says, “it’s that it’s important to enjoy life, to be kind and to do the best you can do at whatever you do.”
This story originally ran in the Winter 2021 issue of the Doctor Gator newsletter.