Barbara Arnold was born in Sydney in 1926, daughter of Roy Frederick Arnold, a dental surgeon, and Linda Gertrude (née Mocatta). I am indebted to her stepmother, Olive, for the following details. Her father was a mature age student who went to Sydney University after his first marriage. He graduated in dentistry and was recruited as an army dentist during World War II. He was granted compassionate leave as his wife was extremely ill, and she died during the war. After his wife's death, he travelled extensively and remarried in 1954. His second wife, Olive, became Barbara’s closest friend. Barbara’s father died in 1958 and Olive and Barbara lived together until Barbara’s death in 1995.
Her early education was at Monte Sant ‘Angelo Mercy College, North Sydney where she finished her schooling and was Dux of the school in her final year in 1941. In 1942 she commenced her medical studies at Sydney University. During her years studying medicine she resided at Sancta Sophia College where she became College Treasurer and 'fulfilled the duties of that office with a zeal that would do credit to an official in the Taxation Department' (quote from the 1946 Senior Year Book). She graduated from the Medical School in 1947 with Honours II, was an intern at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH) 1947 to 1948, resident at Rachel Forster Hospital 1948 to 1949 and in 1949 she joined the NSW Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service as a RMO.
She must have acquired her 'taste for blood' at this stage and she returned to RPAH in 1951 to commence training as a pathologist/haematologist. After completing three years of training at RPAH she pursued her training and broadened her experience by working in haematology from 1954 to 1955 at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School and Hammersmith Hospital London, receiving a Diploma of Clinical Pathology from London University in 1954. On her return to Australia in 1956 she gained her membership of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia, which was later converted to Fellowship.
Barbara worked first as Pathologist at the Women’s Hospital, Crown Street, then as Registrar in Haematology and later Assistant Haematologist at the Royal Perth Hospital (1957 to 1960) and as Staff Specialist at the Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research (ICPMR) (1960 to 1974). During this period she was awarded a Public Service Board Fellowship, which allowed her to visit hospitals in Europe, Canada and the United States, where she gained extensive experience in laboratory automation, data processing and microbiological assays. This enabled her to establish the difficult microbiological assays for vitamin B12 and folic acid at the ICPMR. She rapidly became the expert in those techniques as well as in haemoglobin electrophoresis. It was during her years at the ICPMR that I became acquainted with Barbara. I was training in haematology at the Kanematsu Institute of Pathology at Sydney Hospital. We referred our B12/folate specimens for assay and often sought her advice on interpretation of the test results. Barbara was the undisputed queen of all matters medical, technical and diagnostic relating to these difficult microbiological assays. As a trainee I was in awe of this no nonsense, knowledgeable and somewhat intimidating haematologist. I learned over a period of time that she was kind, compassionate and always willing to share her knowledge with others.
From 1974 to 1977, Barbara held a staff specialist haematologist position at the Royal North Shore Hospital and was then appointed Visiting Specialist at the Repatriation General Hospital Concord and Clinical Assistant in Haematology at Sydney Hospital.
She also tutored in Pathology at the University of Sydney and held committee position in the Australian Medical Association (New South Wales Branch) Pathology Section and the NSW State Committee of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA). She made a particularly valuable contribution to the RCPA as Registrar to the Board of Censors (1979 to 1985 and 1987 to 1988).
Together with Susan Gordon and Bobby Horsley, Barbara was one of a triumvirate of senior female haematologists held in high regard by their colleagues when the field was still dominated by males. All three were my role models in various guises.
Barbara never fully retired. She continued tutoring, worked in locum positions and assisted the Cancer Registry of NSW. She also enthusiastically took up playing bridge and continued her long-held interest in computing. She was a heavy smoker for many years and underwent a successful resection of a carcinoma of the lung in 1992. Later she also overcame a thyroid problem, but in July 1995 collapsed while playing bridge and died without recovering consciousness. Her ashes were buried in the rose garden of Sancta Sophia College; she was the first graduate to be so honoured.
Note: Her aunt Dr Mildred Mocatta of South Australia presented to the College the painting Queensland Port by Sidney Nolan.
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