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BMJ. 2007 June 30; 334(7608): 1379.
PMCID: PMC1906670

Philippa Mary Bruce White

Philippa Mary Bruce White died peacefully at home on 23 December 2006 after a long battle against breast cancer.

Philippa inherited her interest in microbiology from her father and grandfather, both microbiologists in the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS)—the three generations spanned the entire existence of the PHLS. Her enthusiasm was fired further when she worked during her school holidays at the Salmonella Reference Laboratory, Central Public Health Laboratory, Colindale.

Philippa was born in London in 1953 and spent her formative years on the Wirral, Cheshire. She trained in medicine at University College Hospital, London, where she also completed an intercalated BSc in microbiology. Before qualifying in 1977, she spent her elective working for the WHO smallpox eradication programme in India—a country she loved. After taking up clinical posts in Stoke Mandeville, Leicester, London, and Cardiff she embarked on her microbiology career. In 1980 she joined the PHLS as a registrar in Birmingham, where she met her partner and soulmate, Tony Hegarty. After completing her MSc at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Philippa moved to Coventry, attained the MRCPath, and then became associate specialist to the Virus Reference Laboratory, Colindale, where her specialist interest in virology, specifically poliovirus and HTLV-1, was nurtured.

She eventually joined Tony again in East Anglia when she took up her post in 1988 in Norwich as consultant microbiologist with an interest in virology. Here she thrived on the challenges of clinical virology and her enthusiasm and tenacity resulted in her being highly regarded as an inspirational and energetic colleague by her fellow virologists.

Within a year Philippa was appointed as laboratory director and, having achieved an MBA, she took her first step in broadening her successful career in medical management. Her subsequent appointment to the post of group director of PHLS East in 1996 enabled her to combine her clinical role with her great interest in NHS management. She made a major contribution to PHLS strategy at a national level and pioneered the development of a successful network of microbiology departments in the east of England. After the PHLS was disbanded she returned as consultant virologist in Norwich.

She was always keen to share her knowledge and was an honorary senior lecturer at the University of East Anglia in the School of Biological Sciences for many years and, more recently, a recognised teacher in the School of Medicine.

Throughout her working life, Philippa balanced the demands of her career with a variety of creative interests, especially needlework of all types, and she successfully mastered the art of making bobbin lace. She also kept bees. Time spent in their much-loved home in France with Tony was precious, and she became fluent in French and owned a share of a French vineyard.

No description of Philippa would be complete without a mention of her love of animals and of the cats, dogs, and hens that shared her life.

She leaves a partner(Tony) and her mother(Muriel).


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