Lives of the fellows

Rachel Greenwood

b.30 December 1951 d.17 May 2004
BA Oxon(1972) MA(1977) BM BCh(1977) MRCP(1979) FRCP(1992)

Rachel Greenwood was a consultant dermatologist at Scunthorpe General Hospital. Although descended from an old Yorkshire family, Rachel was born in Worcester where her father, Eric Greenwood, was a schoolmaster. When she was a child her family moved back to the north of England and she attended Goole Grammar School, until she gained a place at St Hilda's College, Oxford, in 1969. Rachel had no ancestors with a medical background, but one of her two sisters is a general practitioner.

Rachel qualified in 1977 and her first posts were those of house officer and medical senior house officer at St Luke's Hospital, Bradford, and Bradford Royal Infirmary. She soon developed an enthusiasm for dermatology and was a registrar at Leeds General Infirmary, and then senior registrar rotating between Leeds and Bradford. She was a talented clinician and was appointed a consultant in Scunthorpe in 1984 at the early age of 33. Here she ran an excellent unit and was much admired and loved by her patients, colleagues and nursing staff alike. She was elected a member of the British Association of Dermatologists and the North of England Dermatology Society.

There seemed every prospect that Rachel would enjoy a long and distinguished career, but sadly this was not to be. Shortly before she took up her consultant post she was diagnosed as suffering from multiple sclerosis. Although initially she had periods of full remission, in later years she became progressively disabled and eventually wheelchair bound. Her disease never responded significantly to treatment. Despite her illness she took the brave decision to have two children, of whom she was intensely proud.

Rachel endured her disease with very great courage while she was slowly deprived to everything that made her life worthwhile. She had to retire from consultant practice after a decade. A previously enthusiastic correspondent, she was soon unable to write or type. Her marriage was dissolved, and it was only infrequently possible for her to see her children. She lived alone for some years, but, with the assistance of able-bodied friends, she was able to maintain an interest in areas that were not too physically taxing. She embarked on a study of family history, and undertook an exchange of letters with the Prime Minister and others in an attempt to preserve local services for the disabled. Even when she was physically unable to undertake her principal hobby of gardening she retained an encyclopaedic knowledge of plants and flowers.

Rachel was an intensely private person and few knew her well. Those few, however, recognised someone of enormous patience, courage and integrity. She was a unique and irreplaceable friend.

Derek Barker

(Volume XI, page 233)

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