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Biographical entry Sandel, Jean Mary (1916 - 1974)

MRCS and FRCS 1947; MB ChB Otago 1940; FRACS 1957.

4 November 1974
General surgeon


Jean Sandel was born towards the end of 1916, her parents' only child, in the small community of Taumarunui, twenty-five miles west of Lake Taupo in the centre of the North Island of New Zealand. She was educated at the Girls' High School, New Plymouth (on the coast, sixty miles west of her home), becoming head girl. She won a national scholarship to Otago University, Dunedin, in the South Island, where she won many prizes in the Medical School and was awarded the senior scholarship in medicine and a travelling scholarship. She graduated MB ChB in 1940, and decided to specialise in surgery, perhaps because so many young surgeons had gone to fight in the second world war. By 1946 she had considerable surgical experience and went to England for postgraduate work. She took the Fellowship in 1947, the first New Zealand woman to achieve it.

She went home to New Zealand towards the end of 1950 on appointment to the surgical staff of New Plymouth Hospital, where she made her career. She was elected a Fellow of the Australasian College in 1957. In skill, judgement and concern all her work was of the highest quality. She was a stern disciplinarian, but a good teacher, preferring clinical to formal training, though her lectures were accurate, succinct and lucid. She had many recreational resources, regularly playing golf and bridge, while she enjoyed watching both football and cricket and would travel the long journeys to Auckland or Wellington to see a Test match.

Her chief interest was her historic house with its productive garden, both of which she tended carefully and loved to share with her friends. She was a devout Presbyterian, and gave much time to her church's social welfare work. When her health began to fail in her fifties, she refused to stop working even while undergoing radiotherapy, and tended her dying mother through a long illness without mentioning her own ill health. She herself died at New Plymouth on 4 November 1974 just before her 58th birthday. The 'Jean Sandel Garden' at Taranaki was dedicated to her memory.

Sources used to compile this entry: [NZ med J 1975, 81, 359-360 by Drs D N and E P Allen, with portrait; information from A C Hayton, FRCP, of New Plymouth].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England