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Women in medicine: Anna Batchelor and Gillian Hanson

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The Women in medicine project showcases a number of today’s leading female clinicians and the women from the history of medicine who have inspired them. 

Dr Anna Batchelor is the first woman to have served as dean of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine, between 2013 and 2016, and one of the few women to have been president of the Intensive Care Society.

After qualifying at the University of Sheffield, Anna worked in Leicester before moving to Newcastle, where she is now a consultant in anaesthetics and intensive care medicine based at the Royal Victoria Infirmary.

An elected member of the council of the Royal College of Anaesthetists, Dr Batchelor led the creation of the new curriculum for intensive care medicine and the corresponding component of the anaesthesia curriculum. She also oversaw the production of the Department of Health framework for advanced critical care practitioners and the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine qualification for specialist clinicians.

Gillian had the vision to realise that intensive care needed to be staffed by highly trained specialists requiring skills from physicians as well as anaesthetists, and was instrumental in putting Whipps Cross Hospital on the map for intensive care.

Anna Batchelor on her inspiration, Gillian Coysh Hanson

Dr Gillian Hanson (1934–1996) was a true innovator in the field of intensive care medicine, committed to her practice and the people of East London in equal measure.

After qualifying at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine in 1957, Gillian Coysh Hanson took up a position as a medical registrar at Whipps Cross Hospital, where she would remain for the whole of her working life.

Soon, she was appointed a research fellow, undertaking work with high-pressure oxygen chambers. She became further acquainted with problems of lung function, kidney failure and acute metabolic disorders. This combination of knowledge, and her personal qualities of determination and loyalty, led to her being considered the perfect candidate to head the new intensive therapy unit at the hospital.

When the unit was established in 1968, it was the first in the world to appoint a physician as consultant, and Dr Hanson, in filling that role, became the youngest consultant in London. Whipps Cross was a centre of excellence, influencing intensive care medicine internationally. Gillian Hanson travelled, taught and wrote extensively, co-authoring the first textbook in her specialism. 

Working throughout her career in a number of areas, including obstetrics and diabetes, Dr Hanson made a unique contribution to life in her part of London. As her obituary in The BMJ read, ‘Many people in the borough of Waltham Forest owe their lives and health to the care of Gillian Hanson’.