Pioneering Wigan surgeon celebrates her 90th birthday

Kate Fusell
Kate Fusell

A pioneering surgeon who was the first woman to carry out operations in the theatres of Wigan’s hospitals has been celebrated as she turns 90.

Kate Fussell marked the milestone birthday with a special celebration organised by the local Soroptimists, an organisation she has also been involved with for decades.

Kate celebrating her birthday with fellow Soroptomists

Kate celebrating her birthday with fellow Soroptomists

Born in Bristol in 1929, she was accepted to read medicine at Birmingham University aged just 17 and came to Wigan in 1970 to become consultant surgeon general.

At the time she was one of just six female surgeons in the country but had always shown impressive determination to break down barriers.

She said: “I did not think much of the physics and chemistry teaching at my first school, so I persuaded my dad to send me to an all boys school where the science teaching was better.”

Before arriving in the borough she spent five years working in New York City and credited that Stateside experience with helping her land the top job at Wigan Infirmary.

Kate at the Soroptomist charity ball in 2010

Kate at the Soroptomist charity ball in 2010

She went on to perform a series of top NHS roles, including chairing the medical executive committee and the area medical committee.

Her incredible career was also recognised by Wigan Council in 2000 when she was one of 10 notable borough residents made freemen of the borough as part of the millennium celebrations.

Hospital trust chief executive Andrew Foster said: “On behalf of everyone at WWL, I would like to wish Kate a very happy 90th birthday and thank her for her tremendous contribution to our local health services.

“She was a key figure in some major transformations within the Trust.”

Kate Fussell receives a 720 cheque for the ABC appeal from local ladies who took part in a three legged race to raise funds in 1987

Kate Fussell receives a 720 cheque for the ABC appeal from local ladies who took part in a three legged race to raise funds in 1987

Miss Fussell joined the Soroptimists International, the women’s professional association, in 1971 and was a driving force for the organisation in Wigan for many years.

She was club president twice, South Lancashire president and in charge of the federation of Great Britain and Ireland in 1986.

At the time the federation covered 17 countries, mostly Commonwealth members, and Miss Fussell visited 14 in her year at president, travelling to the Canadian High Arctic and Antarctic.

She and four friends celebrated her milestone birthday in Cheshire and the day took a poignant turn when the group met a retired Wigan Infirmary night nurse matron who knew Miss

Fussell by reputation but had never met her, the two spending some time reminiscing.

She was also named a Lady of Substance by The Lady magazine in 2015.