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Biographical entry Sharp, Ruby Grace (1906 - 1989)

MRCS and FRCS 1935; BA Cape Town 1926; MB ChB 1930; MCOG 1936; FRCOG 1954.

Cape Town, South Africa
23 November 1989


Ruby Grace Sharp was born in Cape Town in 1906, the third daughter of Dr Robert Sharp, a surgeon in Cape Town at that time, and was educated at Wynberg Girls' High School. She was a talented and clever girl and legend has it that she required a wheelbarrow to take home her trophies on prize-giving days! She entered the University of Cape Town and gained a medical BA in 1926, winning the class medal in anatomy II. The following year she received a bronze medal for her place in the bacteriology examination and another bronze medal in 1929 in public health. She graduated MB, ChB in December 1930 with a first in surgery. She completed early appointments in surgery and gynaecology at Cape Town before coming to England for postgraduate studies. After working at several hospitals she obtained the FRCS in 1935 and the MCOG in the following year, in the days before it became the Royal College.

On her return to Cape Town she was appointed honorary consultant gynaecologist to Woodstock Hospital and later to Groote Schuur Hospital when it opened in 1938. The clinical commitment in obstetrics and gynaecology was always high, especially during the war years when many of her colleagues left to serve in the armed forces. Those who were left to 'hold the fort' were incredibly busy, but Ruby was always considerate, kind, caring, compassionate and helpful. All her colleagues, the nurses, her patients and students admired her; she was revered and appreciated by a wide circle of grateful people and most had good reason to have such gratitude. There is a sculptured head of Ruby in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Medical School of the University of Cape Town executed by a grateful patient, a GP's wife in Cape Town. After the war she devoted much time to postgraduate teaching; she received the FRCOG in 1954 and served on the South African Reference Committee of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists from 1952 to 1956. By this time she was 'head of a firm' in the gynaecology department at Groote Schuur Hospital. She retired early from practice in Cape Town and spent a year in a mission hospital in the Transkei before discontinuing practice altogether.

Modest and unassuming, Ruby hated fuss, affectation and pretentiousness, and she shrank from publicity. She belonged to the old school of medical people who gave of themselves wholly, unsparingly, without thought of reward or self. She died on 23 November 1989 aged 83, survived by her sisters and their families.

Sources used to compile this entry: [S Afr med J 1990, 77, 53].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England