First UK female professor of surgery returns to the Blackpool library which inspired her career
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Dame Averil Mansfield was brought up in Layton and grew up to become the UK’s first female professor of surgery.
Her achievements have led to her being presented with a raft of honours, including a Damehood in this year’s King’s Birthday Honours.
Born in 1937 and living in a council house in Blackpool, Averil attended Layton Primary School and then Collegiate School in the town.
But it was in the library that she read medical books as a young child and set her heart on becoming a doctor and surgeon.
Averil, now 86, returned to Layton Library on Monday October 16 to talk about her career in front of an audience, and for a Q&A session.
The audience heard how after qualifying as a doctor in 1960, Averil trained as a vascular surgeon and became a consultant at the age of 35 at a time when less than 0.5 per cent of those in the profession were women.
She worked at Liverpool’s Broadgreen Hospital and later at Hillingdon Hospital in Middlesex before joining St Mary’s Hospital in London 10 years later.
In 1993 Averil was appointed professor of surgery – the first woman in Britain to attain the position.
Her achievements in surgery include helping develop a stroke-preventing procedure to unblock arteries which has helped save thousands of lives.
She was joined at the Layton Library event by childhood friends and former school pals.
Her book ‘Life in her hands: The inspiring story of a female pioneering surgeon’ by Averil Mansfield is now also stocked in the Blackpool library service.
Jane Berry, Blackpool Council’s library manager for Anchorsholme and Layton Libraries, said: “It was an inspirational chat and afternoon spent with a lovely lady, who said it felt like her career had come full circle to see her book on our shelves.
“The whole audience and library staff felt privileged to have met her.”
Averil also received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the recent Pride of Britain Awards at a televised ceremony.