Lives of the fellows

Katharine Marian Dormandy

b.20 April 1926 d.30 May 1978
MB BS Lond(1951) MRCP(1954) MRC Path(1964) MD(1970) FRCP(1977)

Katharine Marian Baker was born in Oxford, daughter of Air Marshall George Brindley Baker. In 1951 she married Thomas Dormandy, clinical pathologist at the Whittington Hospital. They had three children. Katharine studied medicine at the Royal Free Hospital and qualified in 1951.

From 1951 to 1954 she held house officer and registrar posts at the Royal Free Hospital and Central Middlesex Hospital, and from 1954 to 1956 research posts at the Central Middlesex Hospial and at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington. She became senior registrar in haematology at the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street in 1959. During this appointment her life long interests in blood coagulation, haemostasis and the treatment of haemophilic patients began. In 1964 Katharine Dormandy was appointed senior lecturer and honorary consultant in haematology at the Royal Free Hospital and in 1970 she became university reader in haematology.

Immediately after Katharine had been appointed to the Royal Free Hospital she set about organizing a haemophilia centre. At first this was housed in a caravan, which was located at the Lawn Road Hospital, donated by the Haemophilia Society. Determined to establish a first class haemophilia centre, Katharine Dormandy set up an appeal fund to finance a purpose designed building. This centre was completed before her death but sadly she was too ill to undertake its direction. It was to become one of the foremost haemophilia reference centres in the United Kingdom. Katharine undertook many research projects, and she was particularly interested in those topics likely to improve the care of haemophilic patients at home and in hospital, to prevent crippling joint deformity; the treatment of patients having anti-factor VIII antibodies; and statistical surveys of the progress of haemophilic children during their school years and after.

Her main characteristics were the energy which she devoted to the welfare of others and her practical approach to all problems. It is difficult in fact to know how she managed to live such an active life. No time seems to have been taken from work during the infancy of her children. Each day started at 6.30 a.m. and she arrived at work by 8 a.m. to have a little time to deal with outstanding problems before everyone else arrived. She seldom got home before 6 p.m. to prepare supper. At work all the problems that she considered had for her interconnecting and often conflicting side issues; for example, when conducting a statistica survey most scientists are content to obtain accurate figures, but for Katharine each statistic turned out to be a real live patient with problems that must be solved.

Her great courage in the last painful years of her life was an inspiration to her friends and patients. It was entirely characteristic that even in her las: months she was more interested in the Haemophilia Society, the new haemophilia centre, and her patients and family, than in her own health. In 1977 she was awarded the first gold medal of the Haemophilia Society. This medal, inaugurated in honour of RG Macfarlane, was given to Katharine Dormandy particularly on account of her outstanding work for the social and physical welfare of haemophilic patients.

Rosemary Briggs

[Brit.med.J., 1978, 1, 1703; Lancet, 1978, 1, 1320; Times, 6 June 1978]

(Volume VII, page 157)

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