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Biographical entry Goddard, Una Kathleen (1931 - 2012)

LRCS 1955; FRCS 1959; MB ChB Sheffield 1955; DO Eng 1959; LLB Hull 1985; MRCP 1955; FRCOphth 1988.

12 July 1931
9 October 2012
Ophthalmic surgeon


Kate Goddard was a consultant ophthalmologist at Hull Royal Infirmary and one of a generation who, by their persistence and determination, helped change the way we perceive women in the professions. She was born in Sheffield on 12 July 1931, the daughter of Henri Arnold Joel Merrill and Una Adelaide Merrill née Watson. She spent some of her early childhood in the Belgian Congo, where her father was a personal assistant to the industrialist Sir William Lever and, for a period, vice consul in Stanleyville, before returning with the family to Sheffield in the mid-1930s. She was educated at Sheffield High School, interrupted by wartime evacuation to Derbyshire, and became head girl in 1948. Her father, then managing director of a chain of chemist shops, fostered her interest in science, not least by the purchase of a quality microscope and a skeleton.

She studied medicine at Sheffield University from 1949, gaining her coveted place by dint of much persuasion from Kate and her father, along with a promise to pay all the fees privately! She graduated in 1954, passed her primary fellowship examination in 1955 and became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1959 - one of only three women to do so that year.

Early house posts in Sheffield sparked her interest in ophthalmology and paediatrics (she was to remain a lifelong benefactor of the Sheffield Children's Hospital), and she trained in Sunderland and Sheffield. She was a lecturer in ophthalmology and then a senior registrar in Sheffield, before being appointed to her consultant post at Hull Royal Infirmary around the time of the opening of the new hospital, where she was able to combine her medical interests to great effect. Kate had married Mike (Charles Michael Goddard), a Master Mariner, in 1960, having a short career break to have her two children, Charles and Katherine.

There was no expansion of consultant posts in the whole of Yorkshire during Kate's early years as a consultant, and as her senior colleagues retired she became the senior consultant and served as clinical lead for many years. She welcomed and supported junior doctors and new colleagues throughout this time, and oversaw the process to begin the expansion of the department in the 1980s. Kate was always friendly and approachable, with a solid opinion and advice, maintaining her interest in paediatric ophthalmology until she retired. In her later years as a consultant her management interests expanded to include work within the surgical division.

In 1967 Kate began her association with Soroptimist International, an organisation of professional women focused on developing opportunities for women and girls. She was president of the Beverley Soroptimist club in 1971 and president of the Yorkshire region in 1978. During those terms of office Kate adopted ophthalmic projects, supporting Sightsavers with visits to hospitals and clinics in Dhaka and Mymensingh, Bangladesh. She was later honoured with life membership of the Beverley club. In the 1970s she was also a governor of a further education college in Beverley.

Kate also had a lifelong interest in the law, sparked by seeing the barristers in wigs and gowns at the nearby Royal Courts of Justice while she was at the Royal College of Surgeons. Eventually she satisfied her interest when in 1985 she qualified LLB following five years of hard work on a part-time course at Hull University, and it was this example which encouraged her daughter Katherine (now a criminal barrister) to study law.

In retirement, sadly without Mike, who died shortly before her retirement, Kate continued to work in aspects of health care, as a lay member of the local primary care trust and in law, sitting on industrial tribunals. She travelled extensively in association with the Soroptimists and privately, visiting every continent except Antarctica. She took lessons in Swedish to enhance her many visits to Scandinavia, and followed several of the historic trails of North America.

Kate was a Christian, and appreciated church music and architecture. She loved opera and was a knowledgeable plantswoman. She played hockey at school and cricket at university, and later enjoyed spectating - including American football and baseball.

Kate Goddard became a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at a time when surgery was mainly a male domain. By her quiet persistence she championed the place of women in the professions, both in her medical career and through the Soroptimists. Kate Goddard and other 'women doctors' led by example in her generation, leaving a lasting legacy of equality in the surgical professions. She died on 9 October 2012, aged 81.

Jim Innes

Sources used to compile this entry: [Katherine Goddard, Thelma de Leeuw and Salil Datta].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England