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Biographical entry Brown, Betsy (1923 - 2012)

FRCS 1955; MB ChB Glasgow 1945; DPH 1948; DLO 1950.

15 February 1923
16 June 2012
ENT surgeon


Betsy Brown was a consultant ENT surgeon at Bradford Royal Infirmary. She was born on 15 February 1923 in Glasgow, the second daughter of Robert and Isabella Brown. Her father was a master builder, her mother a legal secretary until she married. Together with her sister and brother, Betsy attended Hillhead High School, travelling across the city by tramcar. She left school in 1940 with good qualifications, having been a regular prize winner and showing considerable sporting prowess. Her headmaster wrote of her: 'She has a good brain, is hard working and earnest, and showed herself always of high conduct and ideals.' This description epitomised her character.

As a young child, she told her surprised father that she wished to be a doctor: he was more than happy to support her ambition and so, on leaving school, she went to Glasgow University to study medicine, qualifying in 1945. The medical year-book tagged her 'a minx or a sphinx', another apt description!

Betsy's early working life was in general practice in Wales. She then transferred to the Children's Hospital in Hull, where working with R R Simpson awakened her interest in ENT. As that interest deepened, she spent two years at the Institute of Otolaryngology in London, before returning to Hull.

By 1956 she was working in Manchester, at the Royal Infirmary, where she was to remain for the next 10 years. During her time there she also lectured to undergraduate medical students at the university, to trainee nurses and to student speech therapists.

In 1957 she travelled on the Queen Mary to America, to complete the first tranche of specialist training as a research fellow at the Lampert Institute in New York. Despite lucrative offers of positions in the USA, she showed her commitment to the NHS by returning to Britain as one of the earliest practitioners of stapedectomy for the cure of conductive hearing loss in otosclerosis.

Although in the early years of her career it was difficult for women to progress, by 1966 she had returned once again to Hull, this time as a consultant ENT surgeon at the Royal Infirmary. In 1969 she moved to Bradford Royal Infirmary, where she remained until her retirement.

Betsy was professional to her fingertips. Her slight stature was no impediment to her considerable surgical skills. She was a willing and untiring worker, with considerable compassion for her patients, always anxious to help alleviate their conditions, respected by both her colleagues and her patients, and deeply committed to both.

In 1974 Betsy married Harry McIntyre, a dental surgeon whom she had met during her time in Manchester. They had no children. Harry commuted on a weekly basis from his practice in Manchester to the marital home in Bradford. When they both retired in the mid-1980s, they made their home in Glasgow, living happily until his death in 1998.

Always elegant and immaculately dressed, Betsy enjoyed listening to classical music. She was an excellent cook, enjoying good food and fine wine. She took much pleasure from her garden. She died in Glasgow in June 2012 at the age of 89.

Isabel F MacDonald

The Royal College of Surgeons of England