Obituary: Dr Elizabeth Innes, paediatric haematologist

Born: 10 April, 1921, in Ardrossan. Died: 10 April, 2015, in Edinburgh, aged 94.

Paediatric haematologist Dr Elizabeth Innes whose work saved many children with blood disorders. Picture: Contributed

Having graduated in medicine in 1943 as the most distinguished woman graduate of her year in Edinburgh, Elma Hislop devoted her career to the treatment of childhood blood disorders. The impact this had on so many children’s lives during the 1960s and 70s was highlighted when one of her early survivors of childhood leukaemia attended her recent funeral more than 40 years later.

Elma spent much of her childhood in Burntisland travelling daily by train over the Forth to the Mary Erskine School in Edinburgh. Most of her medical student years were during the Second World War and one of her first jobs after graduating was helping to treat injured soldiers returning to Gogarburn EMS Hospital.

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Following this she started her training in haematology and gained her membership of the Royal College of Physicians in 1946, having been coached by James Innes, who told her he would only marry her if she passed.

This achieved, she married James later that year and they then spent a year as Research Fellows in haematology in St Louis, USA.

As well as gaining valuable medical experience during their year abroad they also travelled extensively and enjoyed the prosperity of the USA which was in stark contrast to post-war austerity in the UK.

On their return to Edinburgh Elma took a career break to raise her three children. In 1962 she returned to work to establish the haematology services in the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, unpaid for the first two years.

During this time she worked with very limited resources until in 1964 a laboratory was acquired with more staff and equipment. Over the next 20 years the service grew steadily under her guidance.

Elma’s interest in childhood leukaemia developed during her year in America. In 1969 she became a member of the MRC Working Party on Childhood Leukaemia which conducted clinical trials that revolutionised the success rates in the treatment of this disease.

Her unit became responsible for looking after children with leukaemia from Dundee to the Borders.

During this time many of the families affected by the illness raised large sums of money for the unit which helped towards the funding of a dedicated treatment centre which was opened on a new site adjacent to the hospital in the late 1970s.

Elma retired in 1981 and spent her retirement enjoying her grandchildren, to whom she was devoted, and going on holidays with James, favourites being to Barra and on NTS cruises.

A particular pleasure was family gatherings at their house in Fairmilehead with the beautiful garden and views over the Pentlands Hills.

She was widowed in 2009 having just celebrated 63 years of a very happy marriage and died peacefully on her 94th birthday. A long life well lived.

Elma is survived by her three children Jean, Sheila and Alastair, together with her eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren.