Nora Naish

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 30 June 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h3530
  1. Anne Gulland, London
  1. annecgulland{at}

Doctor who turned writer in later life

Nora Naish (née Reid) trained as a doctor in the early 1930s, a time when it was still rare for women to go into medicine. She studied at King’s College London, where she was one of only 15 women in a class of 75. Like her fellow female students she was earnest and serious, and keen to prove she was as able as a male doctor.

Female doctors were restricted in the medical posts they could take up. On graduating she took a job at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital for Women, before moving to Cairo in 1938—where her older sister, Mary, was a teacher—to work at the Lady Cromer Dispensary for Sick Children. The outbreak of war, however, cut short Naish’s stay and, on the advice of the British government, she returned to the UK. She spent her last savings on a stethoscope, syringes, and other instruments, so she was equipped to help in case London was bombed.

Her plans to save the capital’s patients were dashed when she moved to Edinburgh in the early part of the war after marrying John Naish, one of her fellow students at King’s. They met when rehearsing for a student performance of Aladdin. Nora was given the job of teaching …

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