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Williams, Eluned [Lyn] Woodford- (1913–1984), geriatrician, was born at 94 Sheil Road, West Derby, Lancashire, on 12 September 1913, the eldest of four daughters of John Woodford-Williams, dental surgeon, and his wife, Edith Mary, née Stevens, daughter of a horticulturist. She was educated at Liverpool College and, when the family moved to Wales, at Cardiff High School for Girls. Her medical studies began at the Welsh National School of Medicine, where she obtained a BSc in 1933. Clinical studies followed at University College Hospital medical school, London, where she qualified in 1936.

Initially Woodford-Williams inclined towards paediatric medicine and trained at Alder Hey Hospital, passing the DCH examination in 1938. She returned to University College Hospital, London, as house physician to Sir Thomas Lewis, who diagnosed her mitral valve heart disease, which was to be the ultimate cause of her death. In 1939 she became resident medical officer at Redhill Hospital, Surrey, and on 21 October the same year she married Denis Astley Sanford (1912–2006), a fellow medical practitioner, and son of Harry Archibald Sanford, also a medical practitioner. Following their marriage she moved with him as his surgical career necessitated (he subsequently became an eminent consultant surgeon). In 1940 she passed the diploma of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, MRCP, and London MD examinations. From 1942 she held posts at Manchester Royal Infirmary and Manchester Northern Hospital.

The second phase of Woodford-Williams's career began with her husband's appointment as consultant surgeon in Sunderland in the late 1940s. She joined him with their two children and found her métier as a geriatrician in 1950 when she began working with Oscar Olbrich, who headed the pioneering geriatric unit in Sunderland General Hospital. The two of them forged a thriving and renowned clinical and research department. Olbrich was a forceful character and Woodford-Williams was often the butt of his tirades, but they were devoted to each other. When Olbrich died unexpectedly in 1957, Woodford-Williams was his natural successor. She established the unit as an age-related speciality, set up the first day hospital in the north of England, and developed her own coronary care unit. She demanded the same work ethic from her junior staff as herself: a senior registrar, who asked to take time off to have a haircut, was told he would have to take a holiday. Many of her trainees became well-known geriatricians in their own right. In 1958 her international career began when, after Olbrich's death, she took over the organization of a conference of the European clinical section of the International Association of Gerontology, which was to be held in Sunderland. The meeting proved a great success and she came to know every leading geriatrician in Europe on both sides of the iron curtain. In 1959 she was appointed co-editor of Gerontologia Clinica and five years later was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians.

A further phase in Woodford-Williams's career began in 1973 with her appointment as director of the NHS Health Advisory Service, a post she held with great distinction for five years. She was one of the few doctors who got on with Barbara Castle, Labour's Secretary of State for Health and Social Services, and was influential in shaping government policy towards the elderly. She used this knowledge to good effect on management courses on geriatric medicine at the King Edward's Hospital Fund. In 1983 she was appointed CBE for services to medicine. The same year the Royal College of Psychiatrists responded to her keen support for the psychiatry of old age by awarding her its fellowship, an honour she greatly appreciated.

Woodford-Williams (Lyn to most colleagues, but Villiams to Olbrich) was kind, vivacious, forceful, enthusiastic, and determined. She applied herself with indefatigable energy to clinical work, research, teaching, editorial, and committee activities on many international bodies while still finding time to serve as a local JP for ten years. She published numerous papers on care of the elderly sick and produced an intensive course in geriatrics for general practitioners. She was a member of the national old people's welfare committee, was active in the Royal College of Physicians, and, with Norman Exton-Smith, encouraged it to establish a geriatric sub-committee. She separated from her husband in the 1970s and the marriage was subsequently dissolved, but they remained on good terms.

Woodford-Williams's retirement began with her working as locum professor of geriatric medicine in Manchester while the incumbent was away. She eventually retired to her cottage in Abersoch, north Wales, where she continued her interest in gardening and rose growing. She loved the country, regularly supported the national eisteddfod, and acquired many paintings by modern Welsh artists, which she bequeathed to the National Museum of Wales. Ill health marred this period and when she became seriously ill from bacterial endocarditis, her former husband (now remarried) took her back to Sunderland. She died in her sleep at St Benedict's Hospice, Sunderland, on 25 November 1984, from congestive cardiac failure secondary to aortic and mitral valve disease, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. She was survived by her son and daughter, who were both medically qualified.

Michael John Denham


The Times (10 Dec 1984) · The Lancet, 325 (12 Jan 1985), 119; (26 Jan 1985), 233 · BMJ, 290 (12 Jan 1985), 163, 405 · Psychiatric Bulletin, 9/4 (1985), 87–8 · Munk, Roll, 8.550–53 · ‘Geriatrics as a medical specialty’, William Davison interviewed by Hazel Houghton, 30 July 1991, BL NSA, F3363–5 · b. cert. · m. cert. · d. cert.


British Cardiovascular Society, corresp. with Sir Thomas Lewis


photograph, repro. in Munk, Roll · photograph, British Geriatrics Society, London

Wealth at death  

£86,259: probate, 15 April 1985, CGPLA Eng. & Wales