Beatrice Willmott Dobbie (1922)

Born in 1903, Beatrice Willmott Dobbie was the second daughter of John Edward Willmott, who would later go on to found John Willmott School in Sutton, and his wife Florence.

Beatrice’s name on the Wall of Honour, near that of her sponsor, Dr Kyri Kyriakou. Image © Royal Society of Medicine.

Beatrice joined KEHS in 1916. She was an active member of the school community, playing for the Hockey team and leading the Debating Society – on one occasion arguing that ‘this house believes popularity is proof of merit’, anticipating the norms of social media by some decades. Excelling in the Sciences she, like many Edwardians of her generation, applied successfully to Girton College, Cambridge, and was awarded a Carlisle Scholarship. She graduated with a BA in 1925.

Returning to Birmingham, Beatrice began her medical training, and was simultaneously awarded with a Conjoint Diploma and a BChir in 1929. By 1931, she had become a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Shortly after, she was appointed as a house surgeon to the Birmingham General Hospital, the second woman ever to hold such a position.

Just four years later, Beatrice earned a Diploma in Medical Radiology and Electrology, developing the interest that would become the basis of her esteemed career: the use of radium as a therapeutic agent. At the Birmingham and Midland Hospital for Women, Beatrice began work as a specialist using radium to treat cervical cancer becoming a leading expert and a mentor in the field. Always supportive and encouraging of the junior doctors around her, Beatrice shared her knowledge and expertise to help cultivate their skills and surgical dexterity. Those around her spoke of her infectious enthusiasm for her speciality and the vast spectrum of discussion in her operating theatre. One Old Edwardian also remembers Beatrice with great affection, after Beatrice saved her life from an undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy.

Over the course of her career, Beatrice published a number of books. Though some were about the advances in her field, she also wrote on her many and varied personal interests, and co-authored the 1971 history of KEHS. Upon her retirement, she became one of the first group of undergraduates to enrol in an arts course with the Open University – and was thoroughly amused to find one of her own books on the recommended reading list!

At a time when few women could attain such heights, Beatrice Willmott Dobbie became a leading expert in her field and an inspiration to the generations that followed. She is recognised on The Royal Society of Medicine’s Wall of Honour.