Averil Mansfield is a retired vascular surgeon and was the first female Professor of Surgery in the UK when she was appointed in 1993. She was born in 1937 in Blackpool, where her father worked as a welder on the attractions at the Pleasure Beach. She was an only child and an avid reader when young. After perusing a library book on early advances in surgery, she decided, at the age of eight, that she wanted to become a surgeon. She studied at the University of Liverpool and spent her early working life in the city. Appointed a consultant surgeon in 1972, she moved to London eight years later with her second husband. She became a consultant vascular surgeon at St Mary’s Hospital in 1982 and remained there until her retirement in 2002. One of the leading vascular surgeons in the country in the 1990s, she was a key figure in proving the safety of vital life-saving vascular operations: the stroke-preventing carotid endarterectomy, an intricate procedure to unblock the carotid artery, and surgery to repair a thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm. These surgeries have helped save thousands of lives by reducing the risk of strokes by 50%. In the early 1990s, she set up an initiative called Women in Surgical Training to encourage more women to take up the profession. In addition to becoming the first female Professor of Surgery in Britain, she was also the first elected Chairman of the Court of Examiners at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, served as Chair of the Stroke Association for five years following her retirement, and as President of the British Medical Association. She lives in London and has three step-children and six grandchildren from her late husband. DISC ONE: II. Waltz by Dmitri Shostakovich, conducted by Steven Sloane, performed by Radio Symphony Orchestra of Berlin DISC TWO: A Transport of Delight by Donald Swann & Michael Flanders DISC THREE: Piano Concerto No. 2in B Flat. Op.83 – 3. Andante – Piu adagio by Johannes Brahms, conducted by Andris Nelsons, performed by Hélène Grimaud (piano) and The Vienna Philharmonic DISC FOUR: Farewell to Stromness by Peter Maxwell Davies DISC FIVE: Quartet for Piano, Violin, Viola and Cello No. 1 in G minor K478: Allegro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by Daniel Barenboim (piano) Kian Soltani (cello) Michael Barenboim (violin) Yulia Deyneka (viola) DISC SIX: Pavane, Op. 50 by Gabriel Fauré, conducted by Yan Pascal Tortelier, performed by BBC Philharmonic and City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus DISC SEVEN: Dancing Queen by Abba, performed by Christine Baranski, Julie Walters and Meryl Streep DISC EIGHT: "Schwanengesang", Ständchen by Franz Schubert, performed by Peter Schreier (tenor) and András Schiff (piano) BOOK CHOICE: A book of poetry LUXURY ITEM: A grand piano CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Piano Concerto No. 2in B Flat. Op.83 – 3. Andante – Piu adagio by Johannes Brahms, conducted by Andris Nelsons. Performed by Hélène Grimaud (piano) and The Vienna Philharmonic Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Cathy Drysdale
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Bbc six music, radio, podcasts, hello, I'm Lauren Laverne, and this is the desert island discs podcast every week I ask my guests to choose the eight tracks book and luxury they'd want to take with them if they were cast away to a desert island. for rights reasons the music is shorter than the original broadcast. I hope you enjoy listening. I the My castaway this week is professor avril mansfield. She was the first woman in the ok to become a professor of surgery and enjoyed a distinguished career as one of our leading vascular surgeons. Now, in her age,
is she knew what she wanted to do from the age of eight. When she found a book about surgery in her local library. Its look that she was clear about our future. Her teaches predictions wildly off the mark. One school report predicted avril. we'll never learn to so her trail and career. In the end, a chess has seen many first in the operating theatre she pioneers surgeries in the field of stroke prevention to in particular, are now available throughout the uk and I've saved many thousand of lives, though she remains down to earth about a job which she describes as a lot like plumbing she's, also philosophical about her status as a woman and a profession where their outnumbered eight to one by men. She says female surgeons were rare throughout much of my career, but I found that if you're doing a job and you're doing it well, people are not concerned whether you are a man or woman. Professor several months field welcome to desert island disks,
if he so much so I rely only used part of your quote about vascular surgery being a lot like plumbing. I think we need more detail on that. How exactly well, if a pipe in your plumbing at home becomes blocked, you can either unblock it or you can put a new bit of piping in or if that pipe is leaking. There are only one option is to put a new button and it's exactly the same in the human body. What was the appeal of surgery in particular for you? You set your heart on it, such a young age. In truth, I probably had an inkling for surgery before that, because my much loved toy as a child was a pender and that panda had it's Appendix removed numerous times and put back in again, but nonetheless it was at about that time that I read about some.
the history of surgery and was completely fascinated by the fact that people would, for example, open the chest and for the first time, not really knowing that the patient could survive. Having their chest opened, it took a lot of courage, and so I was right, came from that age on to be part of that and to see it developing I mean it is perhaps the most visible of men, we'll skills you wielding a knife with a huge amount of procedure. And delicacy, and that means that it's not for everyone. But how does it feel what you actually doing? It will use dogs who I think people imagine that you plunge into a difficult aortic operation on day one, and of course you don't say you start with just a little tiny sister, a number a bumper. A toenail or something of tat sort, something very small, and you work up to the more important major life threatening conditions
and you ve never lose when you start a major operation. That moment of reflection of thinking about what is going to happen next, but you then start in a job of work and you do it with skill and with precision skill. You ve learned precision the eve and over the years, and you really have nothing then to fear- and you seem to get on with the job something else that take skill precision is music and you are a musician yourself, a pianist, a cello player. What role did music play during your working life? It was. The important throughout my life and remained so never more so than in this period of lockdown, but at the very beginning, playing the piano was something that I did every day and when I was going off The university I was a girl school in blackpool and I've never been away from home before my piano teach.
Said to me: you're going to be lonely when you go to your university unlivable and if you are find a piano and sit down and play and you'll have friends and I took her advice. I remember it was the evening if my second day and the whole residents- and I worked quite learn- some could not really met anybody very much and I and a piano, and I sat and played and sure enough by the end of that evening. I had of a group of friends around me. Well, No to think we'd better drew a few friends around us. Now. Let's hear some music athletes, your first disk. What is it and why the chosen this? My first one is shostakovich in it. The walls from his second sweet and it is a very lovely piece of music. I suppose I came to shostakovich. reading his life story and the traumas that he went through in his life and for his art, and this is not a dark peace at all- to very happy peace- would make me on my. Does it ireland field.
dancing. I think- and it is indeed a walls, the the
part of votes. Number two from shostakovich is sweet for variety stage orchestra performed by the radio symphony orchestra, berlin conducted by Stephen sloan, everyone failed. You were born in blackpool in nineteen thirty seven, just before the outbreak of the second world war. Your parents had met at blackpool, pleasure beach and your
there was a welcome. I think he might have been there fixing the fairest whale. Certainly, that's the story. My parents moved to blackpool because both of them are looking for work and the they ended up working on the pleasure beaches. It was cold and I think you're, probably right. He was probably fixing one bits of machinery there. But, yes, he worked in appalling circumstances out in the open. He was a wonderful man. I really was extremely. And my father, and what about you? You mother, she wanted to be a teacher. I think she would have loved to have been the teacher. She was told it. He wasn't strong enough to continue with education fact that she lived to eighty four and robust health. Until then, it's kind of denies this knowledge of it days, but she certainly made to leave school. I think he worked in sales in a department, store and I came along and then from then on. I don't ever worked, so both your parents had come from large,
in class families. You were an only child, so they re both to give you all of their focus. I think that is the situation I certainly have been unable to pursue any career choices. Their own and were determined that whatever career? choice I wished to make always was capable of that was probably the main focus I would be able to do that ambition crystallized. When you ate, you told your parents, but they told you not to refer to the ambition outside the home. The fact that you wanted to be a surgeon why they really did feel it was above us nation, I suppose, is the only way I can express it. I once what some school prize and it was in the local pay and the headline was ever wants to nurse, and I knew perfectly well that my mother had told them that I wanted to nurse, and I was so cross about it because I think I dont want to nurse. I want to be a doctor
Any chest was born eleven years after you, so the changing medical landscape must have been the background to your child in some ways were you aware of it very very my best friend at school- was Alister. He was this if the local j p- and we would never troubled jp for anything that wasn't really important and we could see the outside, and we would never go to the jp surgery until the queue had disappeared inside, including one have to stand out. in the cold and the rain, and my parents had, as a lot of people did in those days pop on the mantel piece with the money for the various things in one of those parts was for the doktor, and the I do remember when the house is came in the joy that they would know good need that little part time for your second discover mansfield. What are we gonna hear but we're going to hear something by don swollen, Michael flanders, transport of delight is the one that I have chosen during lockdown, possibly
most inspired birthday. Gifted I got was from my friend in Australia who sent me I very first lego kid for a london transport, double decker buses which- and I absolutely loved it with going back to being a surgeon. Again it had two thousand pieces in it and I really became addicted to this thing so that london transport sits now in my lounge and I am very proud to be eaten. So this peace just fits I saw anything by bob Van den Bos, not at all any more than that Chinese tied asinine
but I should explain flaming doubt that our jobs on all that brings them jangle taxi drivers, gonna be sweated, does behind that monica serve on a thought likely collect big six. We call london dreadful. These are essential, not least our neighbours and actually joy of transport of delight by Michael flanders and donald sworn so after attending primary school in blackpool, love relieve you pass you eleven close and went to the collegiate high. Who, for girls now by then you'd already started doing science experiments at home, what kind of thing, It is much easier in those days you could go along to the chemist sharpened by the bits and pieces you wanted at bunsen burner clasp dish to do that payments in and I used to do them in the back kitchen and makes them apply
smell was and and no doubt some of them are quite dangerous, but fortunately nothing ever blew up. But, as you have heard, I had a very bad report about my sewing and he s a neverland. So as not to be true, it turned out not to be the case and if there's something really that I wanted to so I could so ok, but Moving into things with my hands and doing things is always something that I enjoyed. Impulsively got that from my father, because he was a great day. I why man and we did plays, and he always do the scenery on the construction of sets. Clearly, he loved to do things in his hands. Undistorted, look after him, So you are putting scientist. How much encouragement did you get those ambitions at school? Not as much as I would have wanted, and not as much as I hope happens today. I do hope it's better than
was then it was. Girls really meant to do the arts, but of course I had to do the science is. I had no choice about it. I knew what I wanted to become and there were signs teaches school and they did their very best, but my mother was very good and actually bought the syllabus so that we could look through it. other and make sure that I had read something about all the topics were meant to be covered in my eye level exams. I owe a great deal to her at what point to cheat start to say it was ok to tell people what you actually wanted to do. I think that the time My done what was then oh levels. I think she realized it. I did seriously have the potential to become a doctor and therefore is ok to start saying: yes, you can apply to medical school and she was perfectly happy about It is some music disk three. What is it and why you taking it to the island but we now moving into the time when I was a student, my uncle had give
me and electric gramophone to take to university with meat which was a wonderful gift. We ve had a wind up gramophone at home and nothing at that stage to play on it and I can remember my very first forty five recorded sabellius when I went to university, but then I began to realize it. composers and with music- and there was orchestral music in particular that I absolutely loved and I've checked brahms is second piano concerto and in particular one bit of it where the cello comes into its own, because it's a combination of the two instruments that I have spent my time trying to play on one occasion I received a proposal of marriage to this cello solo. So it's a very romantic piece of music, a very lovely piece of music and one that I can delve into. Did he say? Yes, going to tell you that, listen to the music and you decide what I said the
the the the Hmm.
part two, meat of booms. Piano concerto number two in be flat with elaine, gravel and the vienna philharmonic conducted by undress nelson's avril mansfield. played piano lot, while studying medicine at liverpool university, almost to the detriment of your studies. I think he said, since it is clearly very important to you. What did playing give you? It was difficult really when I first went to university, because It was such a new world for me and I was pretty unprepared for it. So the comfortable world was that which I had previously inhabited with the piano and because I did so much of it did perhaps take me away from my studies initially, I have to say that didn't go on forever, but I failed and exam and Here I was in the career of my dreams, and here I was failing an important exam,
such a wake up. Call to me. I didn't from then on. I can promise you so I think, perhaps the music, with too much of a refuge for me, initially from Leah the cut and thrust of being a medical student, which was quite tough to begin with, so it was tough which has- we're overwhelming what was going on with the course was it the culture living on your own. It was all those things. But the first thing I remember going to lecture- and I couldn't understand what the topic was: I couldn't really gonna look it up. I couldn't spanish, I didn't know what it was and then the next thing happens: you go into the dissecting room and it's quiet. overwhelming when you first go in there and again. I was shocked at my own response to that, because I was a little scientist and yet to be faced with all these
when bodies exposed for dissection, which was a very important part of the course, but I still struggling to cope with it. But have to get there really, because in those days we had to get through this part of the course first before we could move on to the thing that you'd really gone to university to learn about, and that was the care of patients. It's time to make some room for the music half of what are we gonna hear next and by vetoes on this part of my career. I think everybody went to the states. We used to call it bt in another diploma on your list of diplomas, which stood for being to america and was the more establish person when I came back in the world of medicine, but I was the queen Elizabeth? We all went by sea in those days and we met the tail end of a became going across. It is extremely rough and down to dinner that evening, just three people turned up at the captain
if a wailing factory ship myself and Peter Maxwell Davis and I became maxims, friend for the whole of his life. I went to several of his first performances and watched his career develop one point. He said he was going to write an opera about the operating thirdly with me in it, but I note whether he ever did, but at least I can have a piece of his music and this particular voting. I think he is playing at its farewell to strongly is The the the the. the the hmm the
the the you first, the composer peter Maxwell davies, playing his own composition, farewell to strong ness avenue, mansfield and a man who even a hurricane couldn't put off his dinner. True, while he was still in liverpool, broad green hospital. He had seen your first aortic aneurysm surgery and had a huge impact on you. Now you decide yourself as entranced, which is no
where the everyone would use. What what captivated you want here? Is this person with a life threatening condition very much on the edge of disaster with some brand new operation that had really only just arrived, in the north of england. Certainly it's a ballooning of the I oughta in the back of the abdomen than out again you're ism and if it gets too big, it will burst and the patient will die unless it can get to surgery very quickly. deed. In those days you had to open up the abdomen and put a camp on the water and replace the iota with two of doctrine today, Quite a number of them can be done through an incision in the growing, but in those days it was a massive operation and to watch being done the skill and expertise. I just felt that that was so wonderful to watch. I just wanted to go and do that nineteen sixty six, then your bank, from the? U s and back a broad, green and this time as a registrar
He doing some surgery all or nearly all your peers were men? Did you feel different? I want research and, first and foremost, it didn't have to be vascular, but that was clearly the developing specialty that took my particular interest and I was perfectly comfortable in the fact that there were, other women doing that training. At the same time, and I had a wonderful australian registrar at the very beginning of my career, who was prepared to let me do some simple procedures with his assistance and to pass judge at the end and say, You'Ll- be fine, you can do it go for a girl, your fine, was really important to have somebody you could just watch and make sure that you were competent and capable of doing it see your colleagues were hugely supportive. What about the patient's? What did they make it? They must have occasionally walked into your office and been surprised that there was a woman sitting there if you
good afternoon. I'll tell you some lovely stories about people coming into being shocked at all the time in the world. Ever I give you one brief story, and that was a man who came in who had an able together is me, and I sat and talked to him took his history, but this time I was vessels surgery under. I wrote a list then said. Would you maintain your clothes off from putting on the couch side? Can examine user he strip naked, lay on the couch? I examined him from top to toe He never said a word and then I said right. You can put it On again- and at that point you said to me and when am I going to meet profess amounts which I thought it was amazing that somebody would actually strip naked to some woman that he didn't know who it was a letter examined them from head to toe, but area you do need. retain a sense of humour in this thing. Otherwise, all these lost its time
Yes, my music avril, what's next forced today, this is disk number five. This is most chart and chamber me, by this time I was in liverpool and interested in getting too There are small group of musicians to play chamber music. not easy when you're all medics all on coal, but I learned to love chamber music and still do and it's one of the things that gives me great happiness now to play with other musicians, and this particular one is a piano quartet by moses, and g Mona.
the The party first movement of Mozart's, piano quartet number, one in G minor, with Daniel barenboim on piano, cancel tawny on cello.
Echo barenboim on violin and uli at an acre on Vila avril mansfield may became a concern. in nineteen seventy two aged thirty five and you were working across to liverpool teaching, hospitals, the David louis northern and the royal southern so doing general. Surgery and taking vascular procedures as and when they arose. How did vascular surgery then come to what it is today. There are two areas whether three areas have changed Of course, a minimally invasive aspect of doing the operations was happening when we still working but is developed a great deal since. But the things that really stand out is first and foremost imaging. We now get wonderful images of everything that's going on inside the patient. Which simply didn't exist when I started doing vascular surgery and the other thing is and a seizure in intensive care, the care with which that patient is managed both during and particularly after an operation, the safety of the past
Very large they rushed in the hands of dna suggest, and I often think The one person that nobody talks about they are really important people and when that first aneurysm was done that had such an impression upon me, the motion thing called in intensive care unit, so that patient had to go back to the ward and became for my normal ward nurses, who she had never seen such a patient in their lives before so. Inevitably, some of them were not gonna get as good cares. They would today, I think, a popular section of a surgeon. The idea that we have is as someone who is the star of the show, but you seem to be painting a very different picture. One that's much more complex and into I didn't really by teamwork. Absolutely We are not pre madonna's we shouldn't be prima donnas. We are a member of a team. I always think that perhaps
we can allow ourselves to call ourselves the conductor of the orchestra, because, if you are the surgeon than you do have the direct no travel of an operation in your hands. You are the person who leads, but having said that, you cannot have a successful operation on your own. You do need that team you need to carry the king with you and that, I think, is part of the fun of it? Really. It's part of the pleasure of it that you work with another group of people that you enjoy working with south africa, your first marriage, did at the end, the seventys and after that you met jack under rather dramatic a constant and tell me how he came in to your life is we were both on a bus going skiing. I didn't know him at that stage and I was sitting at the back of the bus and m reservations winter in the ice was almost overhanging. The bus and at one point broke the window of the bus Nobody was injured, no harm will be done, but the sight inserted being in the bus,
suddenly melted behind his this accident. And then this man appeared saying that I think this calls for a drop of the Jews free, where his famous words, who is this man I said to my neighbour and the rest- is history risky together and As I have said many times before, we simply ski together now hanky panky. As we hear Surely we realised that we needed to be together it's time for some mommy's disk number six. What have we got and why you taken this week we'll Gabrielle forays. Profound, is just one of those pieces that I have always loved. I've always thought I would want to have it wherever I was. I've played in it so no, the music well and it's just there so that I can enjoy it
the the The party
raise proven performed by the city of Birmingham symphony chorus with the BBC philharmonic conducted by young pascal tellier every month, in ninety. Ninety three, you were appointed professor vascular surgery, absent marries hospital in london, so the first female professor of surgery in the uk and the promotion that that slightly took you away from what you love day to day. How did you manage transition into that neural heavily to learn at had an academic job? I done research all through my career, so that wasn't new to me, but running department was and worrying about finances. That was perhaps the biggest problem for me to begin with. His was working out kate finances says secure, because you have employees and money does not grow on trees, as we all know, and you have to make sure that your producing the research and the income to support
search. So it was quite a hard time when there were moments when I wondered why what madness it made me accept this this new job and what? jack's eighty when you get home from very long difficult day. Well, but this time he was begin. To think about retirement and then, eventually, for the last ten years of my working life, he was retired I can remember him saying I guess fridays must be as bad for you is they work for me. I'll cook on friday is in the end he did the week days and I did the high days holidays and weekends, which was a very equitable distribution of the work stamper seventh disk. Today, dear yes, this is my mama mia record. I was too, weekend to see mama mia by the grandchildren. We were all up together and in the lake district
and they all want to see my mumia and I was very keen, but I went with them. Gesundheit go to things with them. There came out singing and we must start to love what
not to know the dancing queen from the soundtrack to the film mamma mia performed by christine Baranski Julie, Walters and meryl streep. So abdomens mansfield, like Many others you ve been dealing with the challenges of lockdown curtsey view your husband jack. You have six
four grandchildren and your step children to what's been the most difficult aspects of love, and not having a hug from any of my grandchildren has been the worst thing I mean I haven't had a hugging months and hugson freely very important, I think in life. So yes, that's hard because my jacket, sure you realize, died almost seven. go now so there's nobody. Every day and when I see the grandchildren, they are very careful with me and obey the rules and don't give me a big hug, and I look forward to that very much and looking at the pandemic. the fact that its hands on the other, position that you ve worked for. What's your assessment of the challenge posed to the profession in future, a thing river lot to catch up with they ve done a magnificent job. Looking after this epidemic- and we may have yet more hard times for that
service to come, but it goes to the full. Guy of this is being people have been waiting for surgery and there are a lot of them, and this is really tough on them and tough on those who would be providing the service they want to do the job and just as I wanted operate on people and get them better they wanted. Pretend they're prevented from doing it because of the overwhelming response it was needed to this virus neighbour whose had to make use of the national health service because of personal health reasons there, the first people to pray, she to realize that it is a very important gem in our country's life. it's almost time to send you to the island everyone's feel, but before we do want more disk for me, please and I'm having a romantic final peace by my favorite compose a schubert, a man. and if you had a very short life but somehow managed to produce a vast amount of music
I once went into a music shop in vienna and asked if I could have a look at some piano music by schubert and their practical gave me a room full of it who they so much then the songs. It is written, a wonderful and romantic, and I used to play these on the piano and jack. My husband, who is a very nice ten a voice would sing. So this is a very romantic ending of my choices, walls. the
nurse Yes, It was time is part of schebitz stunting performed by fish higher with andras sheaf on piano. So it's time to and you too island afro mansfield. We know you ve got get for surgery. How handy all you? How well will you get on the island? I think I'll, probably muddle through a much more of a destructive gardner than a constructive one.
I guess I'll have to will give you the books to take with you, the bible, the complete works of shakespeare and the selection of euro bauble happy. I think I'm going to have the biggest fattest book page that you can find for me how lovely I'll be enormous good. You can also have a luxury item to provide pleasure or sensory stimulation, but would you like, but I really like to have jack. Would they be won't give me that so what else if I may use a piano if grand piano is allowed, then I will think of my father saying you should always have a piano. You can play it, you can eat off it and you can sleep under it, which would be lovely its green advice in the piano, is very much going with you and finally, if you had to say just one of the eight discs that you ve shared with us today, which would it be? Is the Brahms Vienna concerto please, professor of romance, Thank you so much for sharing your designing discs with us. Thank you,
the I so enjoyed my conversation with africa and I hope she enjoys many happy. I was playing her piano in the island. The desert island discs back catalogue includes many people from the medical profession, including cardiologist, jane Somerville microbiology, Professor PETE appealed professor kennedy. What winston and doktor David, not you, can listen all those additions on BBC sands next week, my guest will be former olympic cyclist and cycling and walking commissioner for greater manchester Chris Boardman do join us. Then, Any broadcast from BBC radio fall. Children, the stones, villages, the saw loaded it and I'll tv shows a village surrounded by an ancient stone circle, stones are thirsty,
a village with an impossible secret stone to change people straight in the eye of the witches scribe two children of the stones, abc sounds she's coming happy? There.
Transcript generated on 2022-06-05.