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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574

SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. vol.104 n.2 Cape Town Feb. 2014




Eleanor Nash



Lynn Gillis

Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, University of Cape Town, South Africa



Dr Eleanor Nash took up a position as a physician at Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, in the 1970s. However, her interests changed in midcareer and she trained as a psychiatrist at the University of Cape Town, later becoming a senior and valuable member of the Department of Psychiatry. She made a significant contribution in helping to plan and organise psychiatric and educational programmes, was always available to help and gave wholeheartedly with advice and- clinical expertise. For instance, she flew to the flood devastated Laingsberg in 1983 where she dealt with the psychological effects on survivors and those who had been devastated by the tragedy.

Dr. Nash was passionate about teaching and education. She constructed systems of educational objectives for medical students and psychiatrists, and ran the Human Behaviour course at UCT for medical students - she brought understanding of the psychological aspects of physical illness and the person in the patient. Her book on the subject, a classic, is still in use today. She was particularly active in the postgraduate training of psychiatrists and taught and supervised the work of many trainees through the years.

Eleanor did not like injustice or unfairness. She made her views plain and did not hesitate to disagree if she felt strongly about something. During the apartheid years, she strenuously objected to the stringent laws regarding detainees and those suffering the mental effects of incarceration or mistreatment. She pleaded for and treated them and also took part in many such activities impacting on her patients' mental health.

Eleanor had many excellences, but the greatest of them was caring. She was essentially a nurturing person and her students and projects all benefitted from her concern and encouragement. She cared for so many - her family, her colleagues, her friends and not least her patients. She did so much - some she helped to develop, others she supported and some she admonished to do better. She was particularly devoted to the care and guidance of medical students and trainee psychiatrists and psychologists, and there are many practising today, both here and overseas, who owe her a debt of gratitude. Eleanor's last years were very trying, as she knew of her advancing dementia and fought against it.

What more is there to say about Eleanor? She was a fine and decent person, a person of good practice and principle. She had a full professional and personal life and was greatly respected by her colleagues and patients alike. Her passing is a great loss to those who knew her and to her profession.

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