Marion Hildick-Smith - BGS President 1988 - 1990
Marion was a custodian of the very best values of geriatric medicine. She left her mark on the speciality both nationally, locally and with the individual patients for whom she cared. At the same time she was the warmest of people, always interested in others, and charming with her beaming smile.
Marion had a daunting intellect. Having been to Swansea High School for Girls she gained an Exhibition to read Maths at Oxford, but decided to go to Cambridge – gaining one of only 16 places for girls. She quickly realised that medicine would suit her aspirations and nature better than mathematics, so Newnham College organised a transfer course for her. She moved to London as one of the first women to train at St Thomas’. Following qualification she initially gained experience in neurology and chest medicine but realised that the holistic nature and needs of geriatric medicine fitted her metier more. She moved to train in SE England, in particular under the wise guidance of Richard Stevens.
Marion was a fine clinician. I saw at first hand, as we initially did joint ward rounds, her incisive assessment of conditions, her scrupulous attention to detail and her humanity in evaluating and helping the whole person. Her little book, in which she meticulously recorded details of each patient, kept her and her patients on a reliable path to the best possible care.
As well as a great clinician, she constantly strove to improve the service. Despite the knock backs familiar to geriatricians at the time, she coaxed and persuaded her colleagues and administrative teams of the importance of geriatric medicine. She got acute geriatric medicine established in the main hospital with dramatic associated improvements in patient assessment and throughput. She steadily developed a first class service in Canterbury with improving services for Parkinson’s disease and stroke medicine.
Not content with sorting out Canterbury, as well as bringing up her family, she also contributed at the national level both through the Stroke Association and the Parkinson’s Disease Society. She became BGS Treasurer and then in recognition of all her work, President elect and President of the BGS - the first and only woman to date to achieve this and a true testament to the esteem and respect she commanded. She was awarded a CBE for services to medicine.
Alongside her medicine she was a strong family person. She married John who became a school master in Canterbury. Her family grew with three daughters and one son. Her family, her faith and her medicine remained the rocks of her life. She was devastated when John died unexpectedly and at a young age. She continued to carry out her role as President despite this loss. On retirement, she threw herself fully into her family and her increasing number of grandchildren. She gained an English degree through the Open University. Sadly, she battled with illness over many years but always faced the adversity with great inner strength.
While she has left many legacies of her commitment to medicine locally and nationally, perhaps the greatest testament to her as a clinician and doctor is that all four of her children followed her footsteps into medicine.
Professor Jonathan Potter