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Margaret Anne Burgess

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A remarkable paediatrician who pioneered research into vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases in Australia

Margaret Burgess (nee Menser, 1937–) was born in Sydney, and it is Sydney alone that can claim credit for her education and the achievements of a career spanning, unusually, laboratory, clinical and population-based research. Her contributions to medicine are of international importance to our understanding of congenital rubella and its prevention, and to clinical and public health aspects of the control of vaccine-preventable disease more generally. With more than 250 published articles and 20 book chapters, and an Order of Australia for services to public health, Margaret can rightly be considered a pre-eminent paediatric researcher of her generation.

Margaret’s intellectual and personal qualities first became evident as captain of Fort Street Girls High School in 1954. She went on to study medicine at the University of Sydney, where she was active in the University Women’s Union. On graduating in 1961, she won the Dagmar Berne Prize for first place among women candidates and was first in the year in surgery. The link with Dagmar Berne, who was the first woman to enrol in medicine in Australia in 1885, but who needed to transfer to London to evade obstruction to her graduation in Sydney, is apposite. In 1964, Margaret became the first woman appointed as a medical or surgical registrar at the Royal Prince Alfred…