Oral History 2: Dame Cicely Saunders

Categories: Education, Featured, Leadership, and People & Places.

Dame Cicely Saunders was an English Physician and Founder of St Christopher’s Hospice, Sydenham. She is recognised globally as the first pioneer of the Hospice Movement and her seminal research into pain control contributed to the recognition of Palliative Care as a new medical speciality.

Born in Barnet, Hertfordshire in 1918, Cicely was the eldest of three children. She was educated at St Anne’s College, Oxford before training to become a nurse at St Thomas’s Hospital, Nightingale School of Nursing. As a nurse and lady almoner, Cicely observed the inadequacy of the care provided to dying patients in hospital settings.

Inspired by these patients and galvanised by her Christian faith, she trained as a doctor at St Thomas’ Hospital Medical School and qualified in 1957. Cicely spent several years conducting research into pain control at St Joseph’s Hospice, where she began to fundraise for what would become St Christopher’s Hospice. Her vision was to establish a home for the dying where symptom control, clinical research, education and spiritual care would be combined to holistically improve the care of the dying.

By 1967 Cicely had raised sufficient funds and St Christopher’s Hospice, the first purpose-built institution to administer palliative medicine, opened to the public. Throughout her career as Medical Director, Chairman and Founder of St Christopher’s Hospice, Cicely lectured internationally on the principles of palliative care and would contribute to the foundation of hospice teams across the world.

In the following film Senior Associate Gill Early reflects on her relationship with Dame Cicely Saunders for the St Christopher’s Oral History Project.

We have now interviewed 22 individuals for the oral history project but if you would like to contribute by suggesting a name or putting yourself forward please do so by contacting us on the following email address: oralhistoryproject@StChristophers.org.uk

We look forward to hearing from you!

Thanks to the generous support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund St Christopher’s intends to tell the story of the Hospice by capturing oral history testimony from the variety of different people that helped shape the history and the life of the organisation. These recordings will be made accessible to the public and culminate in a ground-breaking multimedia exhibition at St. Christopher’s CARE which will celebrate these different stories and the history of the Hospice. There will also be a permanent static display in the main hospice foyer which will be a central focal point for the project and the continued life and history of St. Christopher’s.

Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MK7OBQ1yi84


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