Dr Barbara Ansell

Dr Barbara Ansell - James Spence Medallist
James Spence Medallist

Date of death: 14 September 2001

Year James Spence Medal awarded: 1997

Dr Ansell CBE received the Medal for outstanding contributions to the advancement paediatric knowledge, specifically defining chronic joint disorders and improving their management. She qualified from Birmingham University and experienced the beginnings of the NHS, namely to the development of specialist services including those for children and families, and also the role of female doctors. 

Her early interests lay in general medicine and cardiology. She was appointed as registrar to Dr Eric Bywaters at the Special Unit for Juvenile Rheumatism at the Canadian Red Cross Memorial Hospital, Taplow, and continued links with this unit. She became consultant physician in rheumatology at that same hospital with half her sessions in the Medical Research Council Rheumatism Unit until she was appointed to head the Division of Rheumatology at the Clinical Research Centre at Northwick Park Hospital.

Dr Ansell recognised the need for new treatments and clinical trials, and was in the forefront of most of the clinical trials for drugs for childhood arthritis, but also saw the importance of other treatments that could reduce the need for large doses of medication. She and her orthopaedic colleagues explored the use of synovectomy and of joint replacement for children, and her papers on the complications of arthritic disease were of immense importance. She wrote over 300 publications and was honoured by many medical societies and associations. She was a committed and world-renowned lecturer and delivered the George Frederic Memorial Lecture in 1981. By attending specialist paediatric rheumatology clinics across the country she was able to pass her experience on to others.