Mary's memory

Feature -

In recognition of International Women’s Day, we are celebrating Dr Mary Goodchild, who dedicated her working life to helping those affected by cystic fibrosis (CF) and supported the Cystic Fibrosis Trust to the end with a gift in her will. To commemorate her memory, and to thank Mary for her work and the generous legacy she left to the Trust, we invited some of her family and close colleagues to share their stories of her and her clinical and research career.

Mary had an impressive background in CF clinical care and research. She qualified as a doctor at St Bartholomew’s before starting her career in 1963 as a house physician at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children, London, where she was greatly influenced by the CF pioneer Dr Winifred Young.

old woman with white hair and brown glasses wearing raincoat background of countryside

In 1965, Mary moved to Boston, Massachusetts, to work as a Research Fellow with Dr Harry Shwachman, a household name in the world of CF research. She returned to the UK in 1970 and became a CF Fellow in Birmingham, with Professor Charlotte Anderson, where she produced a number of varied research papers and obtained her MD.

In 1978, Mary moved to the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, to work with Dr John Dodge, who had established a multidisciplinary CF clinic in 1973. “From the outset, Mary made it clear that she had no intention of being a general paediatrician, but wanted to focus on the clinic!” John recalls. “This initially nonplussed NHS management at both hospital and District (now NHS Trust) levels, and she supplemented a part -time post by working as a part-time GP but eventually, as usual, Mary got her way!”

Mary was appointed as Associate Specialist and the two worked closely together for a number of years. When John moved to Belfast in 1995, she took over running the UHW Paediatric CF Centre.

Mary retired in 1997, however she remained committed to the cause until her death on 7 November 2019, aged 82.

An enquiring mind

old woman with white hair and brown glasses wearing raincoat background of countryside

Mary made many contributions to CF research during her career, with her interests including newborn screening, CF liver disease and bile metabolism, the latter being the subject of her 1980 Birmingham MD. In 1975, she published “Cystic Fibrosis: Manual of Diagnosis and Management”: a simple yet comprehensive guide to the pathology, clinical manifestations and management of CF, which she co-authored with Prof Charlotte Anderson. A second edition followed in 1985, which she co-authored with John Dodge, with the royalties going to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

While working at the Cardiff CF centre, Mary involved colleagues and scientists in the publications she produced on both the clinical and scientific aspects of cystic fibrosis. One of the projects she supported involved Maggie McPherson and her husband Bob Dormer.

“It was a privilege as scientists to have met and worked with Mary and John Dodge. They were both expert physicians with enquiring minds,” says Maggie.

“Our strategy was to study human control and CF salivary glands. Mary enthusiastically volunteered to help, whilst Bob and I were perfecting techniques to study the CF defect and how to correct it pharmacologically.

“Mary always insisted on having the mechanisms explained fully, often requiring detailed explanations before she was satisfied with how this would help CF patients. With her intensity and stubbornness, I’m sure she helped to clarify our ideas as to the next way forward for cystic fibrosis.

“Working with Mary was a pleasure. She was always cheerful and encouraging; she believed that our work was on the right lines and supported us wholly. Without her enthusiasm, this work would not have been possible. All who were lucky to have known Mary held her in high esteem and, like us, embraced her as a very special colleague and friend.”

A dedicated paediatrician

woman with white short hair wearing black top with white strips holding hands under chin looking at camera

Not only was Mary invested in CF research, but the clinical care for children with CF was hugely important to her. She always gave her best to her patients and their families, and is described as an“exceptional woman, both as a doctor and a human being” by Dr Mike Shooter CBE, who worked as a child psychiatrist in Cardiff and the Valleys when Mary worked at the Cardiff CF centre.

“I learned a lot from Mary,” recalled Mike. “Firstly, the total dedication she had for patients. They were her life. If I dropped into the hospital ward on my way home, whatever the time of day or night, weekdays and weekends alike; there she would be. ‘Oh Mike, while you're here...could you just have a word with so and so. She's just been admitted and I'm sure she needs your help.’ And Mary was always right.

“Secondly was her all-round perception of her patients’ needs. Whatever the illness, it will have both physical and psychological components, and Mary was the broadest-minded pediatrician that I ever met.

“Mary’s memory is deserving of every good story we might tell of her. Thank you, Mary, for all you did for them, and for teaching me some of the principles that have remained close to my working heart ever since.”

A long-lasting legacy

At Mary’s funeral, the collection was kindly donated to the Trust.

Her final gift to CF, after thinking of loved ones first, was leaving her residual estate to the Trust in her Will. This incredible legacy will be used to help fund research projects, in memory of a woman who dedicated so much to the field.

Kim Smith, the Gifts in Wills & In-Memory Manager for the Trust, said: “We are incredibly grateful that Dr Goodchild chose to include a gift to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust in her Will. While Mary decided to leave a larger legacy than most, her generosity highlights the powers of gifts in Wills. These kinds of special gifts allow us to continue being there for those with CF and their families, now and for many years to come.”

‘A Special Lady’

Below is an excerpt of a poem which Maggie wrote for Mary, to let her know how much she was appreciated by her work colleagues.

When merits are awarded
One deserving springs to mind
A lovely lady with spirits fair
Who was always very kind

A really skilled physician
With a challenging specialty
Took charge of children with CF
The best care that could be

Full of fun and laughter
She could be quite sharp too
And would stand no nonsense
Against her ‘best for CF’ point of view

What a privilege to have met her
And worked with her so long
Leaving a legacy for CF to ensure
That CF research carries on.

- ‘A Special Lady: Dr Mary C. Goodchild’ – Maggie McPherson

Find out how your gift can make a different to our future by visiting our Gift in Wills page.

A special thank you to Dr Jim Littlewood OBE, Dr John Dodge, Mr David Morrison, Dr Mike Shooter CBE, Mrs Maggie McPherson, Mr Bob Dormer and Ms Debbie Lynch for their support in writing this story. 

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