The weeks leading up to International Women’s Day are the perfect time to launch our newest regular feature: Pioneers, where we highlight innovators from within the fields of obstetrics and gynaecology. We’ll celebrate the lives, careers and achievements of these medical titans, with profiles of 16th century midwives, 20th century Members and Fellows of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and those in-between.
Our first Pioneer is Dr (Muriel) June Scudamore (1925-2008). Dr Scudamore was a consultant gynaecologist who trained at Bedford College for Women and then at University College Hospital in London for five years, where she obtained the McGrath Scholarship in Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 1949. A recognised figure in her field, she was awarded the Kathleen Bush Harman Prize, which was presented to her by the British Medical Association in 1956 for her research work aimed at the reducing maternal mortality.
After posts at hospitals in Bath, London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Manchester as house surgeon, general surgeon, and clinical pathologist, she won the Rickman Godlee Travelling Scholarship of the University College Hospital. She combined this with an appointment as Research Fellow at the University of Chicago clinics. She became the protégée of Professor William Nixon of University College Hospital, who became her mentor and championed her illustrious career. Her research work included the study of Exfoliative Cytology (the study of cells).
Dr Scudamore became a full-time cytologist in 1960 at the Hamilton General Hospital in Canada and in 1965 became Head of Department of Exfoliative Cytology at the Henderson General Hospital as well as a Research Fellow at the Ontario Cancer Foundation.
On her departure from this position in 1968, she set up her own Physicians Cytology Laboratory, where she developed new techniques in the early discovery of cancers. These techniques were used all over Ontario, saving the lives of thousands of women. She lectured in Ontario and Chicago, presented papers, organised workshops and meetings, to develop these new methods of detection, which are now part of the early treatment of cancer in Canada and worldwide.
Her papers reveal her artistic abilities. In a letter dated 26th July 1949 Professor Nixon notes that she was of great assistance providing illustrations for medical publications produced by his department at University College Hospital.
Dr Scudamore was elected to Membership of the International Academy of Cytology, as well as to the Fellowship of the RCOG in 1975 and to the International Academy of Cytology in 1976. She was also a member of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985. She returned to England two years before her death in 2008.
Her papers were donated to the RCOG Archive by her sister in 2008 and became available to the public for research in 2011.
Dr June Scudamore
- Educated at the University of London (1944-1949) and graduated with the Magrath Scholarship in Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
- 1955 admitted to the Membership of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
- 1956 presented the Katharine Bishop Harman Prize by the British Medical Association for research work aimed at the diminution of loss of life and health associated with child-bearing.
- 1957-1958 awarded the Rickman Godlee Travelling Scholar of University College Hospital Medical School, combined with the appointment of Resident-Fellow at the University of Chicago Clinics, studying cytology.
- 1959-1960 undertook an internship at Hamilton General Hospital, Hamilton, Ontario.
- 1960-1965 worked as a full-time cytologist at Hamilton General Hospital.
- 1962 presented a paper at the First Annual Meeting of the Canadian Cytology Council on ‘A two year cytology service’.
- 1965-1968 became Head of the Department of Exfoliative Cytology and Henderson General School of Cytotechnology, as well as Research Fellow at the Ontario Cancer Foundation, based in Hamilton.
- 1975 elevated to Fellowship of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
- 1976 became a Fellow of the International Academy of Cytology