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Biographical entry Goodman, Helene Valerie (1925 - 2010)

BM BCh Oxford 1951; DPhys Med Eng 1958; DM 1962; FRCS 1962.

18 October 1925
21 January 2010
Johannesburg, South Africa


Helene Valerie Goodman was a consultant rheumatologist at St Stephen's, Westminster and Royal Marsden hospitals, London. She was born in London on 18 October 1925, the daughter of Isaac Harris Goodman, a South African businessman and exporter, and Hilda Goodman née Lubetzki. She was known as 'Paddy' since childhood, a nickname allegedly given to her by her father, who had wanted a boy (when she was born there was a play running with the title Paddy, the next best thing). Paddy and her older sister Phyllis went to St Paul's Girls School and then to Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. Paddy read medicine and did her clinical training at St George's, qualifying in 1951.

She was very keen to become a surgeon, at a time when women were not encouraged to follow a surgical career. In 1952 she joined the primary course at the Royal College of Surgeons, where she met Anthony Woolf. They became engaged and married on 3 September 1952, which coincided with the primary examination for the London fellowship. They decided to go up to Glasgow to sit for the exam: Paddy passed and Anthony did not.

She became a house surgeon at the Miller Hospital, then at St James', Balham, where she came under the tutelage of Norman Tanner. Realising that a surgical career was difficult for a married woman, she chose to become a rheumatologist. She gained a registrar appointment at Middlesex Hospital under Archie Boyle and, through the Middlesex, came to the notice of Roger Gilliat, the consultant neurologist. In cooperation with him, she researched nerve production using electromyography. This work formed the basis of her DM thesis, and the work was seminal in the development of treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome. She was awarded her DM in 1962 and, after this, she completed her fellowship of our College.

She was then a registrar and a senior registrar at St Thomas' Hospital in the department of rheumatology under Phillipe Bauwens and James Cyriax. She was appointed as a consultant rheumatologist at St Stephen's Hospital, the Westminster and the Royal Marsden Hospital, and was an accredited teacher at the University of London. She was also on the staff of the Dispensaire Français, where consultations were conducted in French. After she retired she worked as a locum at Charing Cross Hospital, helping to clear their long list of patients waiting for electromyography.

Paddy greatly valued her classical education and took a lifelong interest in Latin. Music for her was a special joy; she played the piano and she greatly enjoyed opera at Covent Garden and Glyndebourne.

Her husband, Anthony, became a consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician in Hackney. They had two daughters, Serena Jane and Caroline Rosemary, and a granddaughter, Antonia.

On holiday in South Africa, Anthony and Paddy were the victims of an armed holdup and car hijacking. This disturbed Paddy and, through an error of judgement, she stepped into a scalding bath. She was admitted to Morningside Mediclinic in Johannesburg, but died a week later, on 21 January 2010, of adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). She was 84.

Michael Pugh

The Royal College of Surgeons of England