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Biographical entry Watson, Ruth Ansley (1926 - 1976)

FRCS ad eundem 1976; MB ChB Birmingham 1949.

16 September 1926
15 November 1976
General surgeon and Plastic surgeon


Ruth Ansley Watson was born on 16 September 1926, the daughter of a distinguished engineer in the motor industry who had, during the war, worked secretly with Sir Frank Whittle on the development of the jet engine. Ruth studied medicine at Birmingham University and graduated in 1949. She decided to become a medical missionary and, after a house job at the Birmingham Accident Hospital she spent a year at missionary training college. She had always been convinced that Nepal was the place for her and she was delighted when the International Nepal Fellowship accepted her as a candidate for their missions.

In November 1952 Ruth arrived in Pokhra where she was to become one of the founders of the mission hospital known locally as the 'Shining Hospital' as it was built of corrugated iron. Her early years there were hard and frustrating. Although she had the necessary skills she was not allowed, as a young single woman, to treat adult men or married women! She naturally overcame these prejudices, and accepted the challenges of her situation with a mixture of resilience and good humour. She had not initially trained as a surgeon but, since the need was there, she quickly developed great skills especially in plastic surgery. The Nepalese were often badly burnt, especially the children, by falling into the fires around which they all slept in winter nights and Ruth did much notable work in the treatment of gross burns with contracture. By the time she was running the hospital she was performing over 600 operations a year often under very primitive conditions.

In 1956 the Green Pastures Leprosy Hospital was established and in 1964 Ruth went to South India to study techniques pioneered there in leprosy surgery and from then until 1973 she threw her abundant energies into helping out at Green Pastures as well as running the Shining Hospital. She also found time to pass on her surgical methods to junior colleagues and medical students from Britain. For her the individual was all-important and her patients showed deep gratitude for the skill, understanding and compassion she brought to their care. She was a wise and good doctor, a delightful friend and a splendid colleague who gave her all in serving her Lord.

She was taken ill with a brain tumour in 1976 and despite immediate evacuation to Britain and instant surgery the tumour recurred. During this time she and her friends were delighted at the honour she was given in being elected FRCS and in July 1976 she was able, wearing a wig, to go in person to receive it. She died on 15 November 1976, aged 50 years.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1977, 1, 115; D Hawker: Kanchi doctor; Ruth Watson of Nepal, London, 1984].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England