Colleagues pay tribute to pioneer brain doctor

A DOCTOR who fled Nazi Germany to become Scotland's first female consultant neurologist has died at the age of 103.

Dr Kate Hermann - who was Jewish - was forced to leave her native country in 1937 or face imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp.

She fled with her parents and younger sister Gerda to London, then moved to Edinburgh to continue the medical career she started in Hamburg.

She trained under one of the founding fathers of neurosurgery, Professor Norman Dott, in Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary from 1938.

Friends and ex-colleagues described her as a "workaholic", who carved out her career through self-discipline and determination to stand up for what she believed in.

However, despite becoming the first female consultant neurologist in the country more than 50 years ago, they said she never regarded herself as a leader in her field.

Her friend John Campbell QC said: "She was aware in 1937 that the activities of the Nazis were likely to find her and her family, and they came over to London. If she had stayed in Germany, she would have ended up in a concentration camp.

"Professor Dott was quite an autocratic old-style surgeon, but he took in people from all over the world, many of them refugees.

"Kate was very confident in her own diagnosis and treatments, and wasn't afraid to disagree with Professor Dott, even though disagreeing with senior consultants was a big deal back then.

"She became the first lady consultant neurologist in Scotland and was the head of the pack, but she didn't see herself as leading the field."

Mr Campbell, who was a leading legal adviser in the Fraser Inquiry into the building of the Scottish Parliament, added: "She was a lovely lady, strong, steely and self-disciplined, and she had a very distinctive character."

One of Dr Hermann's former colleagues said she was a highly regarded neurologist.

He said: "She was slightly forbidding, but always very nice and highly regarded by her colleagues. She was rather feared by her students because her standards were so high.

"She was terribly hard-working - in fact she was a workaholic."

Dr Hermann lived in Newington and The Grange during her years in Edinburgh, but had been living in Colinton Care Home in Spylaw Road for five years.

Sharon Guild, deputy manager at the home, said: "She was a lovely lady and a bit feisty.

"She was loved by everyone and we will all miss her. The place is quiet without her.

"She came to the nursing home in her late 90s and she needed everything done for her.

"She couldn't actually say an awful lot herself, because of her age and frailty and the senility that comes with old age."

Records from the Lothian Health Services archive in Edinburgh University library show that in 1943 Dr Hermann was recorded as the senior clinical assistant at the neurosurgical department of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

At that time she also worked at the Neurological Brain Injuries Unit in the former Emergency Military Services Hospital in Bangour, West Lothian. She retired in 1970.