Enable Recite
Skip to main content

Innovative women in North East and North Cumbria health care

We're shining a spotlight on some of the pioneering women in our region, who have and are transforming healthcare for women and girls. 

Dr Ethel Mary Nucella Williams (1863 – 1948)

The first female doctor in Newcastle, and the first woman to establish a general medical practice in the city.


Dr Ruth Nicholson (1884 – 1963)

Specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology, the first female President of the North of England Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society in the 1930s.


Dr Dorothea Sinton (1899 -1987)

Fought for equal rights to education, an advocate of free medical advice for women and champion of the role of women doctors.


Eluned Woodford-Williams (1913 – 1984)

Established the first day hospital in the north of England. Her work helped affect government policy to assist in the development of geriatric medicine.

Dr Irene Ighodaro (1916 – 1995)

The first West African-born woman doctor in Britain who worked as a house officer at the RVI, Newcastle.

Joyce Pennington

Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust

In 1999 set up the only stand-alone community-based mental health service for deaf people in England.

Alice Hartley

Sunderland Royal Hospital

Consultant Urologist in renal and prostate cancer care,  awarded an MBE for pioneering work in dealing with bullying and undermining in surgery.


Grace Murray

South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Helping pregnant women in South Tees benefit from better access to digital maternity care records.

Ailsa Rutter OBE

Director of Fresh and Balance

Set up the UK's first regional tobacco control programme 'Fresh' in 2005 which was recognised by the World Health Organisation.


Professor Alison Murdoch

Globally renowned expert in reproductive medicine and IVF techniques, founded the department of reproductive medicine at the RV, Newcastle.

Helen Cocks

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust

Clinical Director of Head and Neck and President of ENT UK, the professional membership body which represents ear, nose and throat surgery.


Dr Kathryn Mannix

Flag-bearer for the movement to die well and to change the conversation around death and improving end-of-life care.

Sarah Dexter-Smith

Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust

Consultant clinical psychologist who has shaped the trust's people and culture function.

Professor Nicola Curtin

Cancer researcher at Newcastle University, played a pivotal role in the development of the drug Rubraca, used to treat ovarian cancer.


Dr Cara Tomas

Post-doctoral researcher, inspiring the next generation of scientists at Newcastle University, with vital research into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

Sharon Airey

Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust

Became a student nurse in 1985 has spearheaded a range of mental health innovative projects over a 40-year career.

Back to top