Lives of the fellows

Helen Annan Brown

b.1913 d.1999
Mb ChB Cape Town(1935) MRCP FRCP(1969)

Helen Annan Brown was a learned and innovative physician and teacher at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Her father, Alexander Brown, was professor of applied mathematics at UCT. She studied medicine at UCT, qualifying in 1935. After house jobs at Somerset Hospital, the Peninsula Maternity Hospital and a period spent in the department of pathology at UCT, she travelled to the UK.

While she was in London, she worked at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Great Ormond Street Hospital and the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases. When the Second World War broke out, she joined the staff of the Blood Transfusion Service in Slough.

On going back to South Africa in 1942, she returned to UCT and was appointed to the staff of the department of medicine. She also worked at Groote Schuur Hospital, eventually becoming head of the department, and, using her experience at Slough, initiated their first blood bank. A popular and inspirational teacher, it was estimated that she taught over 5000 students during her time at the university. Meticulous and conscientious as a physician, she insisted that patients suffering from tetanus were monitored at four in the morning and would take it upon herself to do so. She retired in 1991 and, in 2003, the Faculty of Health Sciences at UCT opened a new reading room in the medical school library which they named the Helen Brown Reading Room.

Passionately fond of reading and music, she was an accomplished pianist and violinist. She also had a reputation as a skilled amateur Egyptologist.

Unmarried, she was survived by her sister-in-law, Diana Brown, niece, Wendy Bertie and nephew, Robin Brown, who was also medically qualified.

RCP editor

[University of Cape Town archives; SAMJ - both accessed 1 July 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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