Intended for healthcare professionals


Margaret Turner-Warwick

BMJ 2017; 358 doi: (Published 25 September 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;358:j4442
  1. Ned Stafford
  1. Hamburg

First woman to be president of the Royal College of Physicians

Artist: David Poole, completed in 1992. Copyright: Royal College of Physicians.

When Margaret Turner-Warwick was a young doctor in the 1950s, two centres of gravity were competing for her time and attention. One centre was, of course, medicine. The other was her family, which included her two young daughters. She was devoted and fully committed to both, striving to balance “the needs of the family” with “responsibilities for patients.” But nearly half a century later, she conceded that patients often had to come first. “The greatest compromise in my life,” she wrote in her 2005 autobiography, Living Medicine: Recollections and Reflections, “has been coming to terms with continuing guilt: while I was caring for patients I felt I should have been at home and vice versa.”1

Turner-Warwick says, however, that she received “immense support” from her daughters, Gillian and Lynne, who “were able to accept from a very young age” the demands of medicine. A good example, she says, occurred one evening in the 1950s. Turner-Warwick, at the time a specialist in respiratory medicine at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital in London, came home after a shift and found a letter written earlier in the day by 4 year old Lynne. “Dear mummy, I hoape you don’t git to tired at hospidol looking at the pashnts—If you do in the midol of a pashnt finish the pashnt then come home. Love from Lynne.” “With amazing maturity,” Turner-Warwick says, “she had understood the priorities.”

Turner-Warwick would move on from those guilt ridden early days to become a leading thoracic physician based at Royal Brompton Hospital in London and a world class clinical researcher and author of more than 200 papers. In 1972 she succeeded John Guyett Scadding as professor of thoracic medicine at the University of London’s Cardiothoracic Institute, later …

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