Obituary: Kathleen Anne Burgess, physician, 97

Kathleen Burgess
Kathleen Burgess
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A physician whose medical career spanned four decades has died peacefully in her sleep aged 97.

Kathleen Anne Burgess, from West Lothian, who enjoyed a successful 34 years in the profession that formed the cornerstone of her life and reputation, passed away in September.

Medicine was in her blood from an early age, having grown up with her father, Alexander Scott, and two uncles working as qualified doctors.

Born in Broxburn at the outbreak of the First World War, Mrs Burgess spent significant parts of her childhood boarding with her aunt in Newington, Edinburgh.

Regular visits were also made to grandfather James Bryson, who was the manager of Pumpherston Oil Works and would later design and supervise the building of the original Grangemouth oil refinery.

She studied at Craigmount High School and Edinburgh University, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MB ChB) in 1940.

Kathleen met her husband, John Gordon Burgess – best known as Gordon – during her time at university, with the couple graduating together.

Daughter Anne Burgess said meeting Gordon had inspired her mother to press on with her education.

“She had taken rather longer about her degree than might otherwise have been expected and he was two or three years younger,” Anne said. “When she met him, she decided that was it. She was keeping pace with him from there on.”

Kathleen’s first post was as a resident physician at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for mental disorders, where she worked as a house officer.

Her marriage to Gordon in 1941 would define her medical career, with Kathleen going to Forfar to help her father-in-law, George Cruickshank Burgess, with the family practice as a general practitioner.

Her husband was posted to India as a medical officer in the RAF during the Second World War, but returned in 1944 to take over the practice shortly after his father’s death that year.

The couple would go on to be known for their medical excellence in a professional partnership that extended through until Kathleen’s retirement in 1974.

They were responsible for the groundbreaking Forfar Diabetic Survey in 1962.

Anne said her mother had been renowned for her bedside manner, with her successful career achieved despite also juggling duties at home.

“She was very witty, had a tremendous sense of humour,” Anne said. “She had a very caring manner. She didn’t get fazed or upset by things – by and large she was always the one who was relatively calm and would smooth things over and get the best out of things.”

Kathleen has two surviving children, a granddaughter and a great-granddaughter.