Crichton Royal - pre 1930s


During the 1930s several new biochemical tests were introduced as soon as they were published. These included fractional test meals for stomach ulcers, glucose tolerance tests for diabetes and efficiency tests for kidney disease. Work on cholesterol continued, with doubtful benefit. (ref: 61)

In 1933 Miss Eugenia Semeonoff succeeded Mrs Wyllie as biochemist. Semeonoff had studied for her BSc while working part time during term time and full time during vacations in the Clinical Chemistry Department at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary from 1926 to 1931. (She had started to study for a PhD, but a "Job" was more important than a PhD.) She was taught Bacteriology, Haematology and Serology by Dr Wyllie. She found that Wyllie was also eager to try out anything new. For example, the hospital had its own farm with a large herd of cows which Wyllie decided should be tested for chronic bovine mastitis. As, in addition to the bacteriological tests, there was a chemical test which could be performed on milk samples, this involved a visit to the Hannah Dairy Research Institute in Ayrshire to learn the methods. Semeonoff introduced the urine diastase test, for the diagnosis of acute pancreatitis, and the Douglas Bag measurement of Basal Metabolic Rate, for thyroid disease. (ref: 61,110)

Wyllie deputised for the three physicians in the hospital when they were on holiday so, for four months of the year, Semeonoff ran the laboratory virtually single handed. Then Wyllie was appointed as Deputy Physician Superintendent in 1937 and, although he was nominally still in charge of the laboratory and certain reports were signed by a doctor as a formality, she was in day to day charge through out the whole of the year. The only other member of staff at that time was a succession of lab-boys. Frequently these were the son of one of the hospital staff filling in time until he was old enough to start some other career. One, James Girling, took a liking to laboratory work, studied for the I.M.L.T. qualifications and became the chief technician at the Crichton Royal Hospital some years later. From 1937, Semeonoff was too busy covering all branches of medical laboratory technology to think or to develop anything further in Biochemistry - she did find time on occasions to supervise the use of the equipment for Short Wave Inductothermy treatment, which was housed next door to the X-Ray Department. (ref: 110)

In 1941 Semeonoff took up an appointment in the Sheffield Womans Hospital. During her eight years in Dumfries, she had not received a single increase in her salary. In Sheffield she became the first secretary of the first branch of the Association of Scientific Workers. She was appointed to the M.R.C. Burns Unit In Glasgow in 1943 and moved with it to the Birmingham Accident Hospital until 1945. She worked at Stobhill and Ruchill Hospitals in Glasgow from 1957 to 1973. (ref: 110)

During the Second World War there was a marked increase in the number of patients in the hospital following the transfer of patients from Bangour Hospital at Bathgate (where the Emergency Medical Services Hospital, which was later to become Bangour General Hospital, was being built which allowed the original buildings to be used by the military). Patients were also transferred from the South of England to escape the risk of bombing. Later there was an influx of two thousand officers to several of the buildings which were taken over as a military hospital. Wyllie was commissioned as a Major during the war. (ref: 61,110)

The war had another effect on the laboratory as it resulted in the appointment of Dr Mayer Gross, Professor at Heidelburg University and refugee from Nazi Germany, as Director of Clinical Research. The laboratory facilities were improved and a Medical Physics Department was established, chiefly to maintain the E.E.G. equipment but also to make many pieces of apparatus for routine and research work.

Research was undertaken on the relationship between conscious level and the concentration of sugar (by the method of Folin & Wu) in blood and CSF. Many measurements of blood sugar were made in connection with the control of insulin shock therapy which was used as a treatment of schizophrenia. Serum bromide concentrations were measured on patients receiving this treatment; one of the first instances of therapeutic drug monitoring. (ref: 61)

In 1941 Patrick Smart, BSc, was appointed as Laboratory Assistant and was succeeded by John Walker who was an Associate of the recently formed Institute of Medical Laboratory Technology. Walker became a Fellow of both the Institute of Medical Laboratory Technology and the Royal Institute of Chemistry in 1945 and was appointed as the Chief Technician in Penzance in the mid 1950s. (ref: 61)

The department undertook all the laboratory investigations for the patients at the Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary from 1942 until a laboratory was established at the Royal Infirmary in 1947. In 1947, one of the first services in Scotland for the cleaning, sharpening and sterilising syringes and needles was established and this continued until 1978 when disposable items were introduced. (ref: 61)

After the war, a Joint Advisory Committee for Clinical Research was established between the Crichton and Glasgow University to review the future of psychiatry research. Dr Robert Klein, a neuropsychiatrist from Prague, conducted neuropathological research from 1952 to 1960. James Girling, who had started as a lab-boy in the 1930s and who was the senior of the three technicians in the mid 1950s, established techniques for preparing slides from paraffin wax and celloidin embedded and frozen specimens from post mortem brains. (ref: 61)

Crichton Royal - 1940s to the present

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