Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Selsnick, Frances (1917 - 2007)

MRCS and FRCS 1956; LRCP 1956.

23 December 1917
New York, USA
10 June 2007
General surgeon


Frances Selsnick, one of the most remarkable women of her generation, was the first female general surgeon in the United States and the first female American Fellow of our College. Frances was born in New York on 23 December, 1917, the daughter of Harry Selznick and Florence née Greenfield. Having been a child prodigy on the piano, performing ‘the Dance of the Hours’ at Carnegie Hall, Frances was educated at New York University and then went to the Anderson College of Medicine, Glasgow, to study medicine.

She returned to New York to do a residency at the New York Infirmary for Women and Children in 1948 and then on to Sea View Hospital, Staten Island, and the Knickerbocker Hospital, New York, in 1953. After completing a fellowship at the New York Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital for Cancer and Allied Diseases in New York, she returned to the United Kingdom in 1955, where she was a house surgeon at the Royal Marsden Hospital. This was followed by posts as a senior house officer in Stoke-on-Trent and registrar posts at the Royal Infirmary, Gloucester, St Luke’s and the Royal Infirmary, Bradford.

She returned to the USA to work in the Veterans Administration Service, first at Martinsburg, West Virginia, in 1965, and then in Reno, where she became successively senior surgical coordinator for surgical services, and then assistant and associate chief of the surgical service. For these services she was awarded the John D Chase and Mark Wolcott awards for leadership skills and clinical care delivery. She continued to be an active surgeon right up until the week before she was admitted to hospital.

Frances never married, but was an ever-popular member of an extended family, who nicknamed her ‘the General’ because of her fiesty manner: nobody enjoyed the joke more than she. She died of heart failure on 10 June 2007.

Howard Amster

The Royal College of Surgeons of England