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Biographical entry Nightingale, Doreen (1916 - 2002)

MRCS 1939; FRCS 1945; MB BS London 1940; MS 1945; LRCP 1939.

20 December 2002
Thoracic surgeon


Doreen Nightingale was a consultant thoracic surgeon at University College Hospital, London, and the National Temperance Hospital. She was a medical student at University College London, gaining her conjoint in 1939 and her MB BS in 1940, when she was the McGrath scholar in medicine. She went on to gain her FRCS and obtained her masters in surgery in 1945. She was a research fellow in surgery at Harvard University Medical School and Dorothy Temple Gross research fellow in tuberculosis in 1947. She returned to be the first assistant and deputy director on the (professorial) surgical unit at UCH.

In 1955, she was appointed as consultant thoracic surgeon at UCH and surgeon to the National Temperance Hospital. This was the first time that a thoracic surgeon had been appointed to the staff and initially her work was tuberculosis- related. She contracted pulmonary TB herself and underwent successful treatment. As pulmonary tuberculosis and bronchiectasis almost completely disappeared from the wards, cancer of the lung and diseases of the oesophagus increased.

Techniques of open-heart surgery were investigated experimentally in the medical school and she carried out the clinical cases. However, the expensive resources of staff and equipment were not supported, and the referrals dwindled.

She was a technically excellent and speedy surgeon, kindly, but able to put fear into students and juniors who did not follow her commands. One of her interests was splenectomy for anaemias and, as Camden Town had a large population of Greek Cypriots, thalassaemia was common. One of her registrars recalls difficulties in removing an enormous ruptured spleen in the middle of the night and, as she lived near UCH in the White House, he was thankful for her speedy appearance in the theatre and her even more speedy and successful removal of the spleen.

She married her long-term friend Hugh Burt when it was known that he was terminally ill. She retired from UCH in 1981 and died on 20 December 2002.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Information from Brian Morgan].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England