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Suzanne M Mitchell

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 07 December 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h6619
  1. Susan Downes

Suzanne M Mitchell’s mother was a teacher, and her father was an electronics engineer who was involved in the design of RADAR. Suzanne had a happy childhood in Buckinghamshire and attended Dr Challoner’s High School in Amersham. She subsequently embarked on her career in medicine in London at the Westminster, and qualified at the early age of 22. Despite being on a scientific trajectory, Suzanne was extremely interested in classical music and the arts, played the bassoon, and was a keen concert goer. She was adventurous and travelled frequently; on her elective to British Columbia she had to leap off the plane on to the frozen runway with a plane load of frozen melons raining around her and bouncing along, as the plane was able to stop long enough only to deposit her and the produce for the town. She always loved animals and enjoyed going on safari and seal watching, and spent many happy hours spotting different bird species on her travels and in the UK.

Suzanne specialised in ophthalmology, obtaining a training position at Moorfields Eye Hospital. She was clearly academically a high achiever very early on, and was awarded and completed a highly prestigious Wellcome Trust vision research fellowship in posterior segment infection and inflammation between 1991 and 1994. She was instrumental in introducing the recognition and management of infections of the posterior segment, particularly in the context of HIV, and setting up one of the first clinics for ocular HIV in London at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital when she was still in training. This was when treatment for ocular complications of this condition was in its infancy.

Suzanne went on to become a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and the Western Eye Hospital, London, with a specialist interest in ocular inflammatory disease and infections of the posterior segment, having already gained an international reputation in her discipline during her research. Those who heard her present her data were immediately impressed by her keen intelligence and ability to communicate her subject clearly. Suzanne published widely and, despite a very busy NHS commitment, kept up her teaching and specialist interests throughout all her working life, as well as supporting trainees in their research endeavours. In the mid 2000s Suzanne moved into a different phase of her professional life and became more involved in training. Her special skills in this area were recognised, and she went on from college tutor to regional adviser and was appointed to the chair of the North London Deanery specialist training committee, after which she became the first head of London and Kent, Surrey, and Sussex School of Ophthalmology in 2008. She skillfully got the two training programmes of North London and South London to work together in one overall programme, which resulted in greater choice of subspecialty training for the trainees and better fill of posts on both sides of the Thames. She set up the school structures rapidly and led the training programme directors from North and South and successfully bid for considerable monies from the London Deanery’s simulation project and was awarded funds to buy equipment that is used extensively for cataract simulation training programmes.

Suzanne was highly respected as an expert in her area, a clinician scientist, and renowned for her diplomacy and patience with trainees and colleagues alike. She was also an excellent caring doctor, whose patients liked and admired her greatly. Several comments were made by friends and colleagues regarding Suzanne, which included the following: “She embodied the epitome of calm good sense,” “Ay only interactions with her were uniformly positive, a rare statement in this day and age,” “A great loss to ophthalmic education,” “Belying her quiet and understated demeanour was a wonderful dry sense of humour,” “a quiet sharpness and astute judgment of character, with a lovely sense of humour” . . .

All who knew her benefited from her intellect, kindness, and generosity of spirit, as well as her great capacity for calm and happiness. Suzanne was a leading figure in her specialism and would have made many more contributions if her working life had not been cut short. Predeceased by both her parents by one month, Suzanne—also known as Sue and Zanny—leaves her partner, Fiona, and friends.


Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h6619


  • Consultant ophthalmic surgeon (b 1961; q 1983; FRCS, FRCOphth), died from complications of myeloma on 26 August 2015.

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