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Ethel turned down an interview to read history at Oxford to study medicine at Liverpool. She initially trained as a pathologist at Preston Royal Infirmary before joining her husband in the family general practice in 1966. In the '70s she took on her first general practice trainee, and so began a lifelong involvement in the teaching and training of medical students and general practitioners. She was instrumental in setting up local workshops for the royal college to prepare trainees for the MRCGP oral examinations. During the 1980s she was involved in the provision of community cytology clinics.
Retiring from general practice in 1996, she worked for the Appeals Service until just a few months before her death.
She leaves her husband, Alan; her three daughters (all doctors); and eight grandchildren.