Lives of the fellows

Constance Elaine Field

b.8 February 1911 d.19 March 2002
MB BS Lond(1934) DM(1937) MRCP(1941) FRCP(1962)

Constance Elaine Field (‘Elaine’) graduated MB BS from London University in 1934 and obtained her DM in 1937. After training in paediatrics for four years, she obtained her MRCP in 1941. She continued her work with sick children (and especially research into childhood bronchiectasis). Her expertise was recognised by Sir Alan Moncrieff [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.343] and he appointed her his first assistant in 1947 against strong male contenders for the post.

In 1949 she travelled to the Far East to become a specialist in child health in the Federation of Malaya. She worked tirelessly to develop the, then rather rudimentary, existing services for underprivileged children and to educate her fellow physicians not only in Malaya but also Singapore and Hong Kong. During the early 1940s there were very few children’s wards and parents only brought their sick babies to hospital when they were dying – leading to the shocking infant mortality rate of 50% for infants under 18 months old. In 1955 she became head of the paediatric unit at the Singapore General Hospital and from 1959 to 1960 she was the second master of the Academy of Medicine of Singapore.

Appointed the first professor of paediatrics in the department of medicine in Hong Kong in 1962, she managed, in spite of bureaucratic obstacles, two years later to found a dedicated department of paediatrics at the University of Hong Kong. Through the newly established Paediatric Society she promoted good health care practices amongst child care workers and organised a longitudinal growth study of 800 Chinese children in Hong Kong between 1967 and 1972. The results were published in the book she co-wrote with Flora M Baker, Growing up in Hong Kong (Hong Kong, University Press, 1973) which became a classic in its field.

In 1971 she retired and came back to the UK to live in Surrey and look after her aged mother who lived until over the age of 100. Many ex-colleagues from the Far East visited her there and were warmly entertained.

RCP editor

[HK J Paediatr (new ser) 2002 7 119 Obituary ; History of paediatrics in Singapore by S H Quak - both accessed 2 July 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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