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Dr. Lynne McArthur Reid

Year of Birth / Death

b. 1923

Medical School

University of Melbourne School of Medicine



Career Path

Diagnostic and therapeutic services: Pathology
Dr. Lynne McArthur Reid


Lynne M. Reid, M.D., was the first woman to achieve the rank of professor of experimental pathology in England.
Lynne M. Reid, M.D., was the first dean of the Cardiothoracic Institute, London University.


From the age of about 6 or 7 I wanted to be a doctor. As a child, I experienced a visit to a hospital as a strange and intriguing experience. My father had received a bad wound to his right arm during World War I, but fortunately his arm was saved. So as children we played nurses. Being the elder of his two daughters it was I who played the doctor. I enjoyed school and study and as we prepared for university the study of medicine interested me, as it seemed it would include the sciences and the humanities. The two parts of the physician's role—a career and researcher—were appealing. I was well trained in patient care even as my interest in research was encouraged and developed.

My parents were important in helping me to become a physician, thought neither of them were doctors. They supported my wish—although at school in England it was not considered quite right for a girl. We moved to Australia just before I entered medical school and here it was more widely accepted—perhaps because World War II had begun.


Lynne Reid, M.D., has served as a professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School and pathologist-in-chief emeritus at Children's Hospital in Boston. She has received numerous commendations for her work and has held a series of distinguished appointments in Britain, Australia, and the United States.

From about age 6 or 7, Lynne Reid wanted to be a doctor. Her father's arm had been wounded during his service in World War I, and as a child she and her sister played doctor and nurse with him. As the eldest, she usually took the role of doctor. Her parents supported her plans to become a physician, although at school in England she remembers it was "not considered quite right for a girl." Her family, who had moved to England temporarily, moved back to Australia where Reid was born, and she enrolled in medical school. She graduated from The University of Melbourne School of Medicine in 1946. She completed her internship and residency in Australia, as well as a postdoctoral research fellowship, from 1949 to 1951, at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

During her career in research, Dr. Reid sometimes noticed some resistance from her colleagues. Part-time work or a job as a school physician was considered more appropriate, especially for married women, but nonetheless she was able to earn appointments at the very top of her field, often as the first woman to do so.

Dr. Reid's first academic appointment was as a research assistant at the Institute of Diseases of the Chest at London University. She was appointed a professor of experimental pathology at London University in 1967, and was made dean of the Cardiothoracic Institute at London University in 1973. She accepted a position on the faculty of Harvard Medical School in 1976, as one of the school's few women faculty members.

Dr. Reid's research has centered on thoracic medicine, including anatomical studies of the structure of lungs. In Australia her early work focused on bronchiectasis—a pathological widening of the bronchi and their branches within the lungs. When she moved to London her research turned to chronic bronchitis and emphysema, especially the pathological changes associated with these diseases. She studied the physical and chemical nature of mucous produced in these diseases, and the variety of cell types producing mucous. Later, her work expanded to research into pulmonary hypertension and the study of how lungs grow, particularly in cases where a patient has congenital heart disease.

Dr. Reid's career has encompassed an impressive number of firsts. She was the first woman to achieve the rank of professor of experimental pathology in England; the first woman dean of the Institute of Diseases of the Chest, London University; the first dean of the Cardiothoracic Institute, London University; the first pathologist to receive a research grant from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO); and the first pathologist to be an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Radiologists. For twenty-five years, Dr. Reid was the only woman member of the Fleischner Society, an organization founded in 1969 to promote recognition and development of chest roentgenology as a clinical specialty.

Dr. Reid has won numerous awards and lectured all over the world. In the United States she has served on the American Heart Association's Council of Cardiopulmonary Diseases, the National Institutes of Health's Respiratory and Applied Physiology Review Group, and the Pulmonology Disease Committee of the National Institutes of Health. She has chaired Harvard's Joint Committee on the Status of Women.

Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

At times one was conscious of resistance. It was considered inappropriate for a woman to pursue a career. Part-time work, or the role of the school physician, was considered more appropriate, especially for married women. Occasionally some colleagues would try to undermine one's work.

The demands of my work or my particular role came first, but it was/is important to make and keep time for personal pleasure and refreshment. A special relationship and friendships is the core to this. Some sense of the significance of a religious or spiritual component of life is an important piece to the puzzle that life in the medical profession and research serves up to us.

How do I make a difference?

From early on as I advanced my career I wanted to make the playing field more even for women. This attitude was by no means universal even among women. It is good to see that, in general, support is stronger now.

Fortunately, there are some men who are secure enough in themselves not to resent a woman for being successful in their profession. On the other hand, there are those who have trouble with it and this can be unpleasant or difficult.

Who was my mentor?

As I look back the word mentor was not in common use then in its present meaning, but my physician and surgical teachers at Royal Melbourne Hospital fulfilled this role. Dr. Ivan Maxwell, Dr. Hume Trumbull (physicians) and Sir Alan Newton (surgeon) encouraged critical thinking and research.

In London, my mentor was Sir Roy Cameron, an Australian who had moved to London and become the pathologist-in-chief at University College Hospital. He would become the first president of the Royal College of Pathologists. From my arrival in London to join the Brompton Hospital, I was privileged to be a regular attendee at his departmental meetings and then to become a friend. He was one of the pioneers of experimental pathology and a fellow of the Royal Society, an unusual honor for a medical doctor. I observed him with his research fellows. He would talk to me about the research work he had conducted at Porton Downs during the war, and the way he encouraged and organized research within a department with major service commitments.

How has my career evolved over time?

One can survive the roadblocks and there is richness to life if you live or try to live by the "golden rule." Perhaps the surprise was to "arrive," to realize that what I was doing was having an impact on thoracic medicine and pathology and to receive many invitations, nationally and internationally, to lecture and be a visiting professor, in many parts of the world. This went with the pleasure of building a department of colleagues who were collegial, international, and who also blended the mix of clinical care and scientific research.

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