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Dr. Joseph C. Placak, Pioneer in the Treatment of Tuberculosis

Updated on February 17, 2011

Dr. Joseph C. Placak

On February 22, 1882 a child named Joseph Charles Placak was born in Cleveland to parents Anthony and Jennie Goldstein Placak of Austria.  He would grow up to marry Eunice S. Emde. He would become an educated man, and a doctor, graduating from The College of Physicians and Surgeons, Western Reserve University in 1903 and receiving his post-graduate degree from the University of Prague, Austria.  Joseph completed his residency as both a pathologist and a physician at Cleveland City Hospital by 1905.

Cleveland City Hospital


On September 25, 1888 a child named Eunice Sabina Emde was born in Ohio to Fred Christian Emde and his wife Jesse Williams Emde. Eunice would grow up to marry the renowned tuberculosis expert Dr. Joseph C. Placak and they would have four children, Joseph Jr. (1907), Frederick (1910), Robert (1913) and daughter Jean (1917).

When he was 25 and Eunice 19 they wed on March 20, 1907 in Cleveland. His mother on the marriage record was listed as Grace B. Dushanek. By the time of the 1930 Census for Cuyahoga County, Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Joseph was 48 and Eunice was 41. Their 4 single children ages 12 to 22 still lived at the family home valued at $50,000 – a remarkable amount for that period of time, in a wealthy Cleveland neighborhood at 2228 Woodmere Road.


As a young married man, he was the Medical Superintendent at the 2000 acre Cooley Farms in Warrensville, which housed the municipal tuberculosis sanatorium for Cleveland – the first person named to this position.  Those infirmed here had access to the outdoors that aided their comfort while confined to the sanatorium.  He worked with the disease of tuberculosis and lectured on internal medicine at the Cleveland College of Physicians and Surgeons until 1911.  In 1915 he was the head of the Division of Tuberculosis for Cleveland City Hospital.




WWI and Haymarket District

During WWI, he was a Major in the Medical Corps of the Army and Chief of Medical Services for Evacuation Hospital #5 at Coblenz, Germany.

Tuberculosis was to always be the focus of Joseph’s medical career.  He became the physician in charge of the Tuberculosis Dispensary in the Haymarket District, visiting pathologist for Eddy Road Hospital, and a member of the American Medical Association regarding the study and prevention of this dreadful disease


In 1940, Joseph’s relative, Dr. Harry Placak, a prominent pharmaceutical chemist from Cleveland, Ohio, with a “masked value” selective service classification, moved to Skyuka Road in Tryon, NC. His property included his home and his laboratory where he conducted research on animal feeds, including being an advocate for the soybean. He lived there until his death at St. Luke’s Hospital in 1967, following breaking his hip in a fall at the elderly age of 96. Dr. Joseph C. Placak was the informant for the death certificate.


In 1941 Joseph Placak held memberships with the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American College of Physicians. He was on the board of directors for the National Tuberculosis Association and on the Board of Regents for the American College of Chest Physicians. He was elected President of the Anti-Tuberculosis League of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County and named Chief of Staff at Mount Royal Sanatorium for Tuberculosis plus he consulted at Lake County Memorial Hospital and wrote many papers on chest illnesses and public health. Joseph Placak was known by many as the physician who did the most to prevent and cure tuberculosis.

WWII came and in 1942 at the age of 60 Joseph completed his Draft Registration Card listing his home as 2228 Woodmere Road, Cleveland, his wife as Eunice, and his career as physician with his place of business being the Carnegie Medical Building in Cleveland.


Six years later the Spartanburg Herald-Journal Sunday morning paper announced that noted Dr. Joseph C. Placak, head of the tuberculosis division of City Hospital in Cleveland and president-elect for the American College of Chest Physicians and Surgeons, would retire to his long-owned mountain home on Tryon Mountain on Skyuka Road, NC – in the vicinity where Dr. Harry Placak also resided.

Under the directorship of Joseph, the Polk County Museum was started in the Tryon Depot to houserecords, books, photographs and artifacts. It is still open today.  It is likely that Dr. Joseph Placak is the Joseph Placak that wrote an article on Polk County.

Interestingly, in March of 1970, Eunice died at the age of 88, but, if her death certificate is correct, she was no longer Joseph’s wife – they had divorced at some point. Her son, Dr. Joseph Charles Placak Jr., was the family member who handled the notification; he lived in the area and was at some point, the coroner for Columbus, NC. Eunice was cremated in Atlanta Georgia following her passing at Saluda Nursing Center in Columbus, NC. Dr. Joseph Placak, Jr., son of Joseph and Eunice, died on the 2nd of July in 1988 in Columbus NC at the age of 80. Their son Fred Emde Placak died there at the age of 81 in 1992.

Per the Social Security Death Index, Dr. Joseph C. Placak (Sr.) died in Abington, Washington County, VA in November of 1970 at 88 years of age.


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    • msresearch profile image

      msresearch 6 years ago from The Space Coast of Florida

      Thank you Jennifer for reading this article. I have no doubt your grandfather was a remarkable man also. This seems to be a family who pursue thier interests with passion. I appreciate your comment. Thanks.

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      Jennifer Claire Prentice 6 years ago

      I am so glad to find this - Joseph was my great grandfather. I have since moved to New Hampshire where his son, Joseph Jr. attended undergraduate studies at Dartmouth. My grandfather Robert (Joseph's brother) was also quite the remarkable man. Thank you SO much for this information! I'm so proud of my family!

    • msresearch profile image

      msresearch 6 years ago from The Space Coast of Florida

      I learned recently that Joseph and Harry were brothers. Harry had the "BIGGEST chickens you ever saw" and that when Harry would leave the house each morning he was prepared, if needed, to kill the snakes that were oft in that area. A very rural house, lab and mountain! Thanks for reading my hub and for being a follower. I very much appreciate you and your comments. Donna

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 6 years ago

      Very interesting hub. I never knew about this man. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. voted up