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Dame Deirdre Hine

DBE FFHP FRCP

Former Chief Medical Officer, Wales Dame Deirdre Hine is proud to be a woman of many firsts: she was the first female Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of a UK Government Health Department; the first female President of the Royal Society of Medicine; and the first doctor to revolutionise screening and treatment for breast cancer in Wales. Deirdre was born into an industrial family who ran Curran Steel at Cardiff Docks in the 1930s. She was educated at Heathfield House in Cardiff, before going to Charlton Park School in Cheltenham. At the age of twelve years, she told her mother that she would like to be a nurse, but it was her mother who planted the seeds of medicine, asking “why not be a doctor?” So, Deirdre went to the Welsh National School of Medicine (now Cardiff University School of Medicine), which she regards as quite progressive for having a high proportion of female medical students: there were ten women among fifty men. After qualifying in 1961, Deirdre completed her junior hospital posts at Cardiff Royal Infirmary and undertook GP locum jobs in Cardiff and the Welsh Valleys. After a job as Medical Officer for Glamorgan County Council in 1964, Deirdre chose to specialise in public health, where the hours were more compatible with family life. A short career break followed when Deirdre joined her husband in America during which time she had their first child. Their second child was born soon after she returned to the UK, and with no maternity rights, Deirdre left her job. She went back within months’ even though almost all of her salary paid for childcare and cleaners. Deirdre could not bear to waste years of training, and so she started work as a Specialist in Community Medicine for South Glamorgan Health Authority in 1974. In those days, public health doctors worked for councils and were often called out to outbreaks. In 1984, Deirdre was appointed Deputy CMO for the Welsh Office and served in that role for three years, until she took up the post of Director of the Breast Screening Service. During her time as Deputy CMO, a report recommended setting up a breast cancer screening service in Wales. Deirdre was invited to apply and got the job. In 1988, she launched the screening project and frequently encountered opposition; until this time, routine breast checks were not carried out in Wales. Deirdre managed to persuade GPs to refer women with tumours to specialist surgeons while

travelling the country. She wanted every woman seen by Breast Test Wales to have both breasts screened twice and the results to be checked by two separate radiologists. She persuaded those in power that the expense of this, at that time not done in England, would save money in the long run. Deirdre recalls this as her best career decision. Two years later, Deirdre became the CMO for Wales and advised the Secretary of State for Wales on health matters. In this role, she persuaded the Government to move the Accident and Emergency Department from Cardiff Royal Infirmary to another hospital, despite local opposition. She also secured funding for a cancer centre in North Wales so that women did not have to travel to England. Deirdre has held many other senior roles including Chairman of No Smoking Day, Chairman of the Commission for Health Improvement, and President of the Royal Society of Medicine, the first female doctor to hold the position. She was also Chairman of the BUPA Foundation, President of the British Medical Association, and President of the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund (RMBF), from 2008-2011. The RMBF had a special bright and vibrant yellow dahlia bred by a dahlia breeder, named ‘Dame Deirdre’ in 2015, to help raise funds. In 1995, Deirdre co-authored the Calman-Hine Report into Cancer Services UK-wide, so that specialist cancer teams were established around the country. In 1997, Deirdre was honoured with a DBE for services to medicine in Wales. A year after retirement she was appointed to the Audit Commission and is presently the President of Age Cymru. * Favourite Film: A Good Year * Three objects Deirdre cannot live without: My washing machine, Kindle, Car

Deirdre’s advice to junior doctors is “Stick at it even when it is most difficult! Medicine is the best profession in the world.”

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Medical Woman | Spring 2017

Medical Woman – Magazine Centenary Issue, April 2017  

The magazine for the Medical Women’s Federation (MWF), the largest and most influential body of women doctors in the UK which aims to promot...

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