Dr Audrey Dawson

Audrey Dawson (born 1933) first came to the University of Aberdeen in 1950 to study medicine. At that time, only a quarter of the intake were females; however, in 1956, Dawson secured the Murray Prize for being the most distinguished graduate in her year.

After a year as a Senior House Officer at the Hammersmith Hospital in London, she returned to Aberdeen to lecture in Medicine, doing both general medicine and haematology (both clinical and laboratory haematology). In 1959, she obtained by examination Membership of the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh, becoming a Fellow in 1971; this was followed by a Membership and Fellowship of the Royal College of Pathologist (London). During this period, Dawson was doing research on coagulation and was awarded MD with Honours in 1966. This led to her being appointed Senior Lecturer in Haematology and the subsequent creation of a new post in Haematology in 1967, before becoming Honorary Consultant Clinical Haematologist to Grampian Health Board. This involved work in both Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital until a paediatric haematologist was appointed in 1986.

To enable best use of resources, Dawson brought together the paediatric and adult clinical haematology, as well as the general and oncological haematology (with the radiotherapy department) in Aberdeen, in order to establish the Scotland and Newcastle Lymphoma Group. Along with John Goldman from Hammersmith Hospital, Dawson wrote a paper published in the Lancet, which established a second line of chemotherapy for patients who did not respond to first line therapy. It remained second-line therapy for many years in the UK.

Above all else, Dawson’s affinity with her patients was unsurpassed. Her expertise in her field earned her their implicit trust in her judgement. She was the most supportive, encouraging doctor one could ever have wished for, taking cognisance of the whole patient, not just the clinical problems but also what made them tick. Many had long-term illnesses such as leukaemia, Hodgkin’s Disease, and lymphomas. In the 1950s, many suffering from malignant blood diseases would have died but, thanks to medical advances and expert care, recovered fully. Dawson’s skill was recognised further afield, and, in 1976, she helped set up a new medical faculty in Ahwaz, Iran.

In 1990, as part of a team comprising a haematologist, endocrinologist and a radiation physicist, she was called by Aberdeen City Council to visit Gomel in Belarus, following the nuclear reactor explosion in Chernobyl, as many children were found to be suffering from acute leukaemia. Their remit was to quantify numbers and advise on treatment.

After a distinguished career in medicine spanning 40 years, Dawson retired in September 1996. Instead of taking a well-earned rest, she embarked on a new journey by studying for a Divinity degree at her alma mater. This was a long-held interest, which saw her graduating with a BD in 2000, whereby she secured the Lumsden and Sachs Fellowship as the top student of the year, as well as the Brown Prize in New Testament studies. Five years later, she completed her PhD and graduated in 2005, with a dissertation called ‘Healing Weakness and Power’, combining a wealth of knowledge from both medicine and divinity.

Biography prepared from the nomination made to the University of Aberdeen 525 Alumni project.