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Biographical entry Knocker, Phyllis Amelia Hendrika (1925 - 1992)

Hon FRCS 1978; MB BCh Witwatersrand 1947; FCS (SA) 1958; FRCS Edinburgh 1958; FCM (SA) 1987; FRCPS Glasgow; FRCSI.

2 June 1992
General surgeon


Phyllis Knocker had a brilliant medical career. She was the most distinguished graduate in surgery at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1947, and won the David Lurie memorial prize as well as the Students' Medical Council prize for this achievement. She was one of the first Fellows of the College of Surgeons of South Africa in 1958, and was awarded the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in the same year. She was active in student affairs as editor of the Oracle in 1943 and was President of the Students' Medical Council in 1947. Phyllis worked as a surgical registrar under Dr Jack Douglas and was subsequently a tutorial registrar on the professional staff of Johannesburg Hospital before becoming a consultant to that unit in 1956.

Her subsequent career in private practice earned her an excellent reputation not only for her surgical skill and medical acumen, but for her devotion to patient care. She set a great example as a teacher of undergraduate and postgraduate students and her dedication to this cause continued throughout her career. No one did more for the College of Medicine of South Africa over a period of thirty years. She served as Chairman of the Examinations and Credentials Committee from 1974 to 1983 and the volume of work undertaken was enormous. Over several years Phyllis convened the Tutorial Subcommittee of the College and was the first Chairlady of the Witwatersrand Fellows' Committee, which she instigated. Supper symposia, as a way of conducting medical education, were initiated by the Fellows' Committee under Phyllis, and this medium has been taken over by many other bodies subsequent to the College of Medicine example.

Phyllis served as Vice-President of the College of Medicine from 1981 and was elected to the Presidency in 1983 for a three-year period. Despite her health problems she served in this office with distinction and it was a fitting pinnacle to her career. She subsequently served as a devoted trustee of the College of Medicine Foundation. The Bradlaw-Knocker award is made to an outstanding Fellow of the College and is the most prestigious College award to sponsor a major South African research project.

Phyllis Knocker was the first lady to be elected to an Honorary Fellowship of the College of Medicine of South Africa, in 1987. She had been elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1978 and was the first woman so honoured. Sir Rodney Sweetnam delivered the citation at the Council meeting on 8 June 1978. Honorary Fellowships were bestowed on her by the Glasgow College of Physicians and Surgeons and also by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Her work in the International College of Surgeons led to her convening a highly successful meeting of this august body in Johannesburg under the auspices of the College of Medicine of South Africa in 1979.

Without her beloved partner, Dr Zolly Frame, whom she married in 1946, she could never have accomplished the major feats outlined above. This partnership was the ideal example of a loving, mutually supportive couple, both of whom served the medical profession with distinction. Zolly died in 1987 and was sadly missed by Phyllis. As compassionate doctors, Phyllis and Zolly were respected and loved by their colleagues and patients alike. In their partnership they shared a love of classical music, literature and ballet, in their leisure hours caravanning in the dormobile called Tortoise.

She died on 2 June 1992 at the age of 67 and was survived by her brothers, William and Kenneth.

Sources used to compile this entry: [SAMJ 1992 82 138].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England