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Biographical entry Lewin, Monica Cynthia (1926 - 1998)

MRCS 1952; FRCS 1962; MB BS London 1952; LRCP 1952.

15 August 1926
Clarendon, Jamaica
17 February 1998
Anatomist and General surgeon


Monica Lewin, a surgeon at Kingston Public Hospital and part-time lecturer in anatomy at the University of the West Indies, was the first Jamaican woman to become a Fellow of the College. She was born on 15 August 1926, in Clarendon, Jamaica. Her father, James Mahoney Lewin, was the 'grand old man' of the district of Vere, in Jamaica. He founded and became first the headmaster of the Vere Technical High School, having travelled extensively in England, India and the United States for the YMCA. Her mother was Asinath née Elliot, also a schoolteacher. Monica was educated at the Hampton School, where she became the first black head girl, and won a Jamaica Government scholarship to the Royal Free in 1944.

After qualifying, Monica was house surgeon to Geraldine Barry, and house physician at St Margaret's Hospital, Epping. After junior jobs in Brighton, the Royal London Homoeopathic and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospitals, she passed the final FRCS and returned to Jamaica as senior registrar to Sir Harry Annamunthodo. She was appointed surgeon to the Children's and Kingston Public Hospitals in 1963, and became a part-time lecturer in anatomy at the University of the West Indies in 1968. During the unrest in Kingston in the 1960s, she worked day and night treating gunshot and machete wounds.

Monica married David Atkinson when they were both medical students in 1949. David also became an FRCS, according to Lord Brock the first husband and wife to hold the English Fellowship. He joined her as senior lecturer and consultant urologist at the University Hospital in Kingston. They eventually returned to England when David became consultant urologist at the North Middlesex Hospital. Monica 'kept her hand in' as a clinical assistant in the accident and emergency departments of the Royal Northern and Whittington Hospitals.

To their surprise, they had two children, a son, David, and a daughter, Mary, when they were past 45. There are three grandchildren, Luke, Emily and Richard. Monica retired in 1988. Among her hobbies was that of being a radio 'ham'. She died from a cerebrovascular accident on 17 February 1998.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 1999 318 61, with portrait; information from David Atkinson].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England