Inspiring and dedicated: Dr Isabel Venters (1869 – 1940)

One of LHSA’s first readers of 2013 has been researching the life of Dr Isabel Venters, a pioneer of medical education and training for women, using the rich resources of the Bruntsfield Hospital collection. Dr Venters studied medicine at the Surgeons’ Square School founded by Sophia Jex-Blake, became a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians in 1894, and was only the sixth woman to graduate M.B. C.M. from the University of Edinburgh, doing so in 1897. She completed her practical instruction at Leith Hospital in the days before the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh allowed women to receive it. 
Dr Isabel Venters
Dr Venters became one of the first residents of the Grove Street Dispensary, the forerunner of Bruntsfield Hospital (opened in 1899), and remained its surgeon for almost 40 years. She was the Hospital’s only surgeon during WW1 (at a time when it had 40 beds) and still found time and energy to operate her own practice, and a dispensary for poorer women and children in the Canongate. She remained a trustee of the Hospital throughout, always attending executive meetings besides her medical work. She firmly believed in Bruntsfield’s mission: “a place where women in need might find help from skilled women doctors and where young medical women might have training and opportunity”.