b.1 February 1923 d.17 February 2013
MRCS LRCP(1945) MB BS Lond(1946) MRCP(1948) MD(1949) FRCP(1973)
Audrey Hanson was a consultant chest physician in East Ham. She was born in London of working class parents; her father, Bertram Charles Hanson, was an engineer and her grandfather had worked in a factory. Her mother was Ethel Edith Hanson née Brown. She was always proud of these roots and of the prodigious skills they gave her – she enjoyed making her own furniture and problem-solving by adapting machines to help individual patients. She was educated at Mary Datchelor Girls’ School and the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, qualifying MB BS in 1946 and gaining her MD in 1949.
Her initial appointment was as a resident medical officer at Woking Victoria Hospital. She was then a casualty officer and resident medical officer at the Royal Free, and subsequently a medical registrar at the Whittington Hospital. From 1949 to 1955 she was a medical registrar and then a senior medical registrar in the department of thoracic medicine at St Thomas’ Hospital.
In 1955 she was appointed as an assistant chest physician at East Ham Chest Clinic, becoming a consultant there (and also at Plaistow Hospital) in 1963. She was a member of the Thames Group hospital management committee from 1969 until her retirement. She became an FRCP in 1973.
She was especially delighted to return to the East End and understood her patients and all the hospital staff, with whom she had excellent relationships. Working for her was to learn how to treat patients with dignity and care. She knew all her patients, and had unerring instincts as to when they needed more treatment and attention. The hospital was near the docks and she gained an expertise in asbestosis and mesothelioma as a result, but more than that she understood the dockers, their concerns and problems and got to know their families. She also got to know her medical juniors, and if one of them looked a bit down, there would be an immediate invitation to dinner at her South Woodford home, to talk things over.
She published two papers – ‘The co-existence of bronchial carcinoma and sarcoidosis’ (Br J Tuberc Dis Chest. 1958 Jul;52:218-21) and ‘Pulmonary arteriovenous aneurysm’ (Br J Dis Chest. 1959 Apr;53:165-72).
Audrey had considerable musical skill and expertise, and outside medicine this was her chief interest. She sang with the Bach Choir, joining them in performances in the UK and abroad. On retirement to her beloved Kelsale in Suffolk, she added a well-stocked music room to her charming converted school house. She also enjoyed gardening and painting, and moved to Suffolk to be able to sail.
Audrey was a very committed Anglican Christian, and enjoyed her position as church warden at Kelsale Parish Church. As a singer she fulfilled those duties with gusto and also led the choir, making sure the hymns were sung beautifully!
It is difficult to describe just how unique Audrey was, both as a person and as a physician. My husband and I both worked for her at different periods, and maintained a life-long friendship. She came to our wedding, lent us her cottage for the honeymoon and visited us in Pakistan in later years. This was typical of her and of her concern for others: she would do anything she could to help anyone.
She died in a nursing home in Saxmundham, Suffolk. Sadly, her closing years were marred by Alzheimer's, but her kindness and her teaching of medicine and the high art of treating people well will remain with us.
Jenny Barger Naseem
(Volume XII, page web)
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