Marjory Warren was a co-founder of the Medical Society for the Care of the Elderly (later renamed the British Geriatrics Society) and her work is credited with the formalisation of geriatrics as a medical specialty within the NHS
Warren, Marjory Winsome (1897–1960), geriatrician, was born on 28 October 1897 at 15 Scarborough Road, Stroud Green, Hornsey, London, eldest of five daughters of Walter Richard Warren (d. 1930), barrister, and his wife, Annie née Dixon. Her younger sister later achieved prominence as a medical social worker.
Marjory was educated at the North London Collegiate School and trained in medicine at the Royal Free Hospital, London; she qualified LRCP MRCS in 1923. After junior posts at the Queen's Children's Hospital, Hackney, and at the Royal Free and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson hospitals, she became assistant resident medical officer at the Isleworth Infirmary in 1926. She was promoted to be deputy medical director in 1931, and after the inception of the National Health Service in 1948 she became consultant physician.
Warren's early interest was in surgery but she later concentrated on medicine and medical administration. In 1935 the Isleworth Infirmary took over responsibility for the adjacent workhouse (Warkworth House) to form the West Middlesex County Hospital. During 1936 Warren systematically reviewed the several hundred inmates of the old workhouse wards. ‘In the same ward were to be found senile dements, restless and noisy patients who required cot beds, incontinent patients, senile bed-ridden patients, elderly sick patients who were treatable, patients who were up and about all day, and unmarried mothers with infants’ (Lancet, 656).
In two seminal papers, in the British Medical Journal and the Lancet, Warren advocated the creation of a medical speciality of geriatrics, the provision of special geriatric units in general hospitals, and the teaching of medical students in the care of elderly people by senior doctors with specialist interest and experience in geriatrics.
Warren helped some of the unmarried mothers back into the community by finding them employment and was able to discharge other patients to their own homes or to residential care by providing active rehabilitation and appropriate equipment. Many of the patients were old and infirm and for these Warren's approach was to match care to needs by a system of classification. The success of her active approach to the rehabilitation of stroke victims had a particular and lasting impact on medical practice. She also initiated the upgrading of wards, thereby improving the morale of both patients and staff.
In two seminal papers, in the British Medical Journal (25 Dec 1943, 822–3) and the Lancet (8 June 1946, 841–3), Warren advocated the creation of a medical speciality of geriatrics, the provision of special geriatric units in general hospitals, and the teaching of medical students in the care of elderly people by senior doctors with specialist interest and experience in geriatrics. Her work aroused the interest of the Ministry of Health and during the 1950s geriatric medicine became a recognized medical specialism within the National Health Service.
In 1947 she was one of eight doctors who founded the Medical Society for the Care of the Elderly (later renamed the British Geriatrics Society). She was founding chair of its committee under the presidency of Lord Amulree, the medical officer at the Ministry of Health who first appreciated the significance of her work. Many visitors from elsewhere in the UK and from overseas came to Isleworth to observe and learn from her methods. Warren was invited to lecture in Canada, Australia, and the USA, and she served as international secretary of the International Association of Gerontology. As chief of a busy medical team she expected high standards from those who worked with her, but her personal influence was enhanced by an energetic and engaging personality that earned her the affection as well as the respect of colleagues.
Warren was active in many professional and voluntary fields. She had a keen interest in nursing and nursing education and was an examiner for the General Nursing Council. She was an enthusiastic member of the London Association of the Medical Women's Federation and shortly before her death was elected its president. She was appointed CBE in 1959.
Warren was fatally injured in a road accident on her way to a conference in Germany, and she died in hospital in Maizières-lès-Metz, France, on 5 September 1960. Her body was cremated in Strasbourg, and a memorial service was held on 1 October 1960 at St Pancras Church, London. She never married.
Central Middlesex Hospital • North London Collegiate College • private information (2004) • The Lancet (10 Sept 1960), 591 • The Lancet (17 Sept 1960), 656–7 • The Lancet (24 Sept 1960), 712 • BMJ (17 Sept 1960), 867–8 • BMJ (24 Sept 1960), 953–4 • T. Howell, ‘Origins of the British Geriatrics Society’, Age and Ageing, 3 (1974), 69–72 • archives, British Geriatrics Society • b. cert. • d. cert.
Archives: CUL, travel diaries, RCS/RCMS51
Wealth at death: £19,032 16s.: probate, 10 Nov 1960, CGPLA Eng. & Wales
© Oxford University Press 2004–13 All rights reserved
John Grimley Evans,‘Warren, Marjory Winsome (1897–1960)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn,May 2010 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/56912]
Marjory Winsome Warren (1897–1960): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/56912