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Priscilla Kincaid-Smith

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 15 September 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h4503
  1. Ned Stafford, Hamburg
  1. ns{at}

Kidney specialist who overcame gender barriers in Australia to become a national and global leader in medicine

In late 1958, Priscilla Kincaid-Smith arrived in Melbourne, newly married to her Australian husband and eager to resume her medical career. Born and raised in South Africa, she had excelled during the previous six years, training and conducting medical research at Hammersmith Hospital in London. She was in for a shock: married female doctors in Australia could not be employed at a university or a hospital. “To my absolute amazement and dismay, I was jobless,” she recalled a half century later.1

In order to continue her career, she took a position, as a research fellow, far below her impressive qualifications. She worked hard, determined to enter into—and excel in—a system that denied women full and equal employment opportunities. “She was an outstanding role model for women,” says Judith Whitworth, former director of the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University. “An abiding characteristic was her determination. If she thought something was important she would go for it relentlessly and never take no for an answer.”

Breaking the mould

Kincaid-Smith eventually became an internationally acclaimed nephrologist, while at the same time opening doors in Australia that previously had been closed to women. She was the first woman appointed professor at the University of Melbourne, the first female president of the Royal Australian College of Physicians, and the first female president of the World Medical Association. She also served as president of the Australasian Society of Nephrology, the International Society of Nephrology, and in leadership positions of other medical societies.

Perhaps …

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