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Julie Dorrington Obituary

Julie Dorrington
19 October 1940 – 21 December 2010

Julie was born in Northampton but after the war the family moved to Muswell Hill, North London, where her father worked as an engineer for the BBC at Alexandra Palace. Her mother taught dressmaking and later founded the New Embroidery Group. An only child, Julie attended Hornsey High Grammar School followed by a photography course at Regent Street Polytechnic. After graduating, she entered the world of commercial photography but soon decided it wasn’t for her and in 1960 she became a trainee medical photographer at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. Julie thus came under the tutelage of three key players in the establishment of medical illustration as a profession and in the creation of the Institute of Medical and Biological Illustration (1968) – Norman K Harrison, Peter Cull and David Tredinnick.

As a founder associate member of IMBI (later IMI – the Institute of Medical Illustrators), Julie’s active participation in the Institute was life-long and she proved to be a formidable and meticulous administrator. She was variously Assistant Honorary Secretary (1968-69), Honorary Secretary (1970-71), member of Council, member of the Qualifications Board (1971-74), Assistant Honorary Treasurer (1971-88), Conference Secretary (1973 and 1975), Conference Chairman (1979), Secretary to the Education Committee (1971-1983), Examinations Officer (1983-85), and Conference and Course Administrator. Her most enduring role, however, was as Membership Secretary, a position that evolved from her appointment, in 1968, as the first Registrar for the photographic section. Julie maintained a personal yet discreet and empathetic relationship with almost every single member. It is to her skills as a diplomatist and the fondness in which she was regarded that very few members were lost to subscription default although a number (usually the same ones) did try even Julie’s patience! For her outstanding contribution to the Institute, Julie was the first recipient, in 1972, of the Norman K Harrison Gold Medal, and in 1985 she was awarded Honorary Fellowship.

Like most medical photographers trained during the 1960s and 1970s, Julie qualified through the Institute of Incorporated Photographers (now the British Institute of Professional Photography) intermediate and medical final examinations. The London hospitals had established a training programme – the London School of Medical Photography (1952-1990) – geared to these qualifications, which attracted candidates from the UK and around the world. With Barts as a participating hospital, Julie was a teacher with the LSMP from 1964 to 1980 and thereafter a member of its Distance Learning Committee. She also found time to serve two terms as a committee member of the Royal Photographic Society Medical Group.

When asked how long she had been at Barts Julie would always reply, ‘Too long.’ In the event it was 30 years, by which time she was Deputy Director of the Department of Medical Illustration. In 1990, she went to Graves Medical Audiovisual in Chelmsford, under the directorship of Richard Morton, to manage the National Medical Slidebank, an important collection of 12,000 images collected by the now retired David Tredinnick from departments around the UK and representative of the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases. In 1993, both Julie and the Slidebank moved to the Wellcome Trust’s Medical Photographic Library, thus establishing its contemporary medical science collection. For four years Julie ran this single-handed whilst supervising the ongoing collection of images by David and later by Ray Phillips. To date, the collection numbers 32,000 images representing the evolution of clinical medicine over 60 years. Julie’s 12 years in the Photo Library with Catherine Draycott and her team were amongst her happiest and most rewarding. She brought to the Library an encyclopaedic knowledge of clinical medicine and many contacts within it. Her thoughtfulness, dependability and good humour endeared her to her colleagues and she in turn appreciated their support and friendship. When Julie retired from the Photo Library in 2005 she was anxious about the loss of daily companionship but by good fortune she and David’s widow, Betty, became wonderful companions, sharing time and holidays together. They travelled through the UK and Europe seeking the wonderful gardens they both enjoyed so much. Sadly, Julie’s retirement years proved far too short. She became seriously ill early in 2009 and was distressed to miss her first ever IMI conference in its 42-year history.

Throughout her illness Julie retained her extraordinary thoughtfulness and empathy with other people’s pain whilst often denying her own. She faced her own uncertain future with courage and pragmatism but it is to Betty and her family that Julie owed such support during these difficult months. In truth, Julie had friends all over the world. Her funeral was attended by over 70 friends and colleagues, and many who could not attend sent tributes and flowers. My own garden, peppered with Julie’s gifts of flowering plants, will always remain bright with the memory of her friendship.

Carole Reeves

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Clinical photography, design and video in healthcare