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Biographical entry Milton, Catherine Maureen (1951 - 2003)

MRCS 1977; FRCS 1982; BSc London 1972; MB BS 1978; LRCP 1977.

6 April 1951
Bristol, UK
18 August 2003


Catherine Milton was a consultant otolaryngologist at Kent and Sussex Hospital, Tunbridge Wells. She was born in Bristol on 6 April 1951, the middle of three children. Her brothers were Kevin and Richard. Her parents, Maureen and Robert, were both primary school teachers. The family moved in Catherine’s early teens to Littlehampton in West Sussex, her parents pursuing new opportunities at the local primary school.

Catherine attended Worthing High School for Girls from 1962 to 1969 and subsequently read zoology at King’s College, London, graduating with a BSc honours degree in 1972. From there Catherine transferred to medicine, to the Middlesex Hospital, where she qualified in 1977. As part of her student training at the Middlesex she was attached to the Ear, Nose and Throat department under Sir Douglas Ranger, Dick Williams and Garfield-Davies, kindling her interest in ENT. Catherine then secured a training post at the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital in Gray’s Inn Road, where Sir Donald Harrison was the patriarchal head of department. Catherine was one of three mercurial female senior surgical trainees at Gray’s Inn Road at this time. Of the others, Vicky Moore-Gillon was later appointed to St George’s, London, and Valerie Lund became chair of ENT at the Institute of Laryngology and Otology.

Catherine was subsequently a senior registrar at St George’s Hospital, where in addition to advancing her surgical training, Brian Pickard, the senior surgeon in the department, enthused Catherine with his love of flying. She embarked on, but never completed, her private pilots licence. Following a six month sabbatical in Hillbrow Hospital, South Africa, with Theo Gregor, she returned to the UK and was appointed to her consultant point at the Kent and Sussex Hospital in Tunbridge Wells, joining Robert Sergeant. Catherine’s main interests lay within her paediatric practice, particularly otology.

Outside medicine, Catherine maintained her earlier interest in zoology and kept a keen interest in animal husbandry, accumulating copious dogs, Jacob sheep, Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs, New Forest ponies and a number of chipmunks, the latter she had inherited from Donald and Audrey Harrison.

Catherine married a medical school classmate, Graham Venn, later a cardiothoracic surgeon at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, in 1979 and the couple had two children. James, the elder, followed his mother’s leanings, studying zoology at University College London before converting to law and being called to the Bar in 2006. Jonathan, following a music exhibition at Tonbridge School, studied commercial music at Leeds and Cambridge. The marriage ultimately ended in 2002.

Catherine retired prematurely from practice at 50 with progressive ill health, finding the stresses of a changing and pressing surgical practice increasingly arduous. Following her retirement her health deteriorated and, following a short illness, Catherine died of hepatic failure with concomitant breast carcinoma on 18 August 2003.

Neil Weir

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 2003 327 1351; information from Graham E Venn].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England