Dame Rosalinde Hurley

Distinguished pathologist and medical administrator

Rosalinde Hurley had two distinguished careers: the first as an expert in infectious diseases, particularly those affecting pregnancy and childbirth, and then as chairman of the Medicines Commission and of related professional bodies concerned with medicines, infection, ethics, medical devices and pathology training.



Rosalinde Hurley, microbiologist: born London 30 December 1929; House Surgeon, Wembley Hospital 1955; House Phy sician, West London Hospital 1956; Senior House Officer, Charing Cross Hospital and Medical School 1956-57, Registrar 1957-58, Lecturer and Assistant Clinical Pathologist 1958-62; called to the Bar, Inner Temple 1958; MD 1962; Consultant Microbiologist, Queen Charlotte's Hospital 1963-95, Honorary Consultant 1995-2004; Professor of Microbiology, London University 1975-95 (Emeritus); chairman, Medicines Commission 1982-93; DBE 1988; married 1964 Peter Gortvai (deceased); died London 30 June 2004.



Rosalinde Hurley had two distinguished careers: the first as an expert in infectious diseases, particularly those affecting pregnancy and childbirth, and then as chairman of the Medicines Commission and of related professional bodies concerned with medicines, infection, ethics, medical devices and pathology training.

Underpinning this was her extraordinary training. Hurley was one of those rare people who seemed to find studying effortless, qualifying as a doctor and as a lawyer and obtaining a degree-level diploma in English literature at the same time and walking off with all the prizes. She was called to the Bar in 1958, and got her LLB while working the notoriously demanding rotas of a junior hospital doctor. She never practiced law, but the training made her an effective administrator, and she gave informal legal advice to the Royal College of Pathologists and elsewhere.

She was born in 1929 into a Catholic family - and indeed remained a devout Catholic all her life - and, when the Second World War began, was sent to live with a friend of her father in Massachusetts, where she was educated at the Academy of the Assumption, Wellesley Hills. She returned to London and to Queen's College, Harley Street, in 1948. She studied at Charing Cross Hospital Medical School and the Inns of Court, qualifying in medicine in 1955 and in law in 1956.

In her final year at medical school she won prizes in obstetrics, psychiatry, public health and hygiene, and forensic medicine. In 1956 she also was awarded the London University Diploma in English Literature, which is of degree-level standard.

She was awarded an MD in 1962 and passed the examination for Membership of the Royal College of Pathologists, which made her a fully qualified specialist. From 1958 she had been lecturer and assistant pathologist at Charing Cross Hospital and in 1963 she was appointed consultant pathologist at Queen Charlotte's, the famous maternity hospital in west London.

It was a small hospital with a tolerable workload, and she turned her research energies to bacterial, viral and fungal infections of pregnant woman and their babies, with a particular interest in the yeast Candida albicans. This was becoming common as an increasing number of mothers had immune systems that were depressed by transplants or by cancer treatment, and became commoner still when Aids appeared on the scene in the 1980s.

In 1973 Hurley was appointed Professor of Microbiology, a post she held alongside her clinical appointment for some 20 years. In 1979 she had, in addition, her first serious quasi-governmental appointment, on the Committee on Dental and Surgical Materials, becoming vice-chairman and then chairman. Her abilities were such at she was appointed chairman of the Medicines Commission from 1982 until 1983, and on the European Medicines Evaluation Agency which succeeded it.

The Medicines Commission, a small group of very distinguished people, and acted as a sort of "higher court" to the Medicines Control Agency. She was also a board member of the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS), which had recently created the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre, a sort of meteorological office for infectious disease. It was for this work that she was appointed DBE in 1988.

During her time there she oversaw two major infections - an early outbreak of Legionnaire's disease in Stafford, and an outbreak of food poisoning at a geriatric hospital in Wakefield that killed 19 patients and cause acute illness in most of the other patients and staff. She also established and chaired an ethics committee at the PHLS.

This led to her chairing a Nuffield Council bioethics committee on human tissues, a role that used her expertise in law. She also served medicine in dozens of other ways: for the Association of Clinical Pathologists, the British Society for Mycopathology, the Royal Society of Medicine (she was President of the Pathology Section from 1979 to 1981). She chaired the academic board of the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and served on the Council of the Royal College of Pathologists for 10 years, three of them as Vice-Chairman. She gave them legal advice on the storage of human tissue.

In 1964, around the time she became a consultant, she married the neurosurgeon Peter Gortvai, a neurosurgeon at St Bartholemew's and Romford hospitals. They had no children. In later life he suffered from heart disease but had the good fortune to survive a burst aneurysm, being in a cardiologist's waiting room at the time. He died about seven years ago.

Ros Hurley was approachable and universally liked by staff at every level. There was no "side" to her. Yet she was, it is said, a cat who walked by herself. Her spare-time interests were: law as it related to medicine: needlework "the cruder sort, like making curtains"; gardening and watching garden birds; listening to music, especially medieval; cooking, especially Hungarian; archaeology, especially Egyptology; and collecting modern original prints, especially Erté, Miro, Sutherland, Dali, Lowry, and Piper.

Caroline Richmond

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