Women in medicine: Judy Evans and Gertrude Herzfeld

Produced by:

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 Judy Evans is at the forefront of female clinicians in plastic surgery. A consultant in Plymouth, she was first woman to gain the fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in plastic surgery, and the first woman, since the organisation’s foundation in 1505, to be appointed honorary secretary of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

After graduating in zoology at Oxford, Judy Evans changed direction, enrolling as a medical student at Charing Cross Hospital, London. A period in Hong Kong followed, before Judy returned to the UK, to Norwich. Here, against her better judgement, she accepted a 6-month post in plastic surgery.

Within a week, Judy felt as though she had ‘come home’, and has worked in the field ever since.

Dr Evans today combines practice with teaching, and being an examiner for the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

Gertrude Herzfeld was a true trailblazer for women in surgery and charismatic figure in the story of medicine in Scotland. Not only was she the first woman to be an active fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, but the sheer number and diversity of clinical positions she held, at the same time, are testament to her boundless energy and professional brilliance.

Judy Evans on her inspiration Gertrude Herzfeld

Gertrude Herzfeld (1890–1981) was a female pioneer in Scottish surgery and a key figure in Edinburgh’s medical community. The first woman to be a practising fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Herzfeld held senior posts at several of the city’s medical institutions over the course of her distinguished career.

Qualifying in medicine at the University of Edinburgh in 1914, Gertrude Marian Amalia Herzfeld worked initially at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for Sick Children. During the First World War, she was attached briefly to the Royal Army Medical Corps, before taking work in Bolton; she returned to Scotland in 1920.

Back in Edinburgh, Gertrude (affectionately known as ‘Gertie’) accepted concurrent positions at the female-led Bruntsfield Hospital for Women and Children, the Edinburgh Orthopaedic Clinic, the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for Sick Children, and as a lecturer in surgery at her alma mater.

Working across paediatrics and gynaecology, Herzfeld’s remarkably wide-ranging practice encompassed fields which are today considered specialties in their own right: abdominal, neonatal, orthopaedic and plastic surgery, alongside the treatment of burns and trauma.

In addition to her surgical career, Gertrude Herzfeld helped to found the Edinburgh School of Chiropody, chaired the city’s branch of the British Medical Association and was president of the Medical Women’s Federation (1948–50).

Following her retirement, Gertie pursued her varied interests, becoming honorary vice president of the Society of Women Artists. At her death, the obituary in The BMJ paid tribute to ‘a large woman in heart and mind’.