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Dr Grace Warren - TLM Hero

A woman with glasses and grey hair smiles at the camera

At a young age Grace felt that God was calling her to be a surgeon. Yet when she applied for surgeon training in Australia in 1955 it was refused because she was a woman. So, Grace learnt many of her surgery skills in countries where surgeons were in short supply; she had to study textbooks to learn the procedures. She not only discovered a skill for surgery but also for teaching medical students and doctors what she had learnt.

After graduating as a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery in 1954 Dr. Warren worked at the St. George Hospital, Sydney, the Queen Victoria Hospital for Women and Children, Melbourne, and the Geelong District Hospital, Victoria. Her extensive tropical work began in 1957 as Assistant Medical Superintendent of a woman’s hospital in Pusan, South Korea.

Dr Warren began her career with The Leprosy Mission (TLM) in 1959. At TLM’s hospital in Hong Kong she initially worked as a medical officer then later became superintendent. Dr Warren was responsible for the regular care of patients in the Leprosarium and made significant contributions to the medical treatment and surgical management of those patients.

In 1962 The Leprosy Mission asked her to join its permanent staff which she did, on condition that she would be allowed to travel and teach as opportunity arose. In 1962-3 Dr Warren spent three months in India learning the techniques of reconstructive surgery from Dr Paul Brand.

Whilst based in Hong Kong Dr Warren expanded her work to include teaching medical staff from missions and government agencies throughout Asia. It was during this time that Dr Warren was involved in the international trial and testing of a new drug to combat the disease of leprosy and she presented her positive findings to the 1968 International Leprosy Conference in London.

During her time working with TLM in Hong Kong, Dr Warren became known in Australia for her rehabilitation surgery and care of neuropathic limbs. On her visits home she was asked to lecture and teach in clinics and hospitals around Australia, something that she continued until recently.

From Hong Kong Dr Warren went to South India to work with Dr Paul Brand where she continued to devise and develop new and alternative methods of dealing with the multiple deformities associated with the effects of leprosy.

In 1975 Dr Warren based herself in Thailand. She continued working for The Leprosy Mission, travelling to countries such as Burma, Bangladesh, and Nepal, to teach surgery techniques.

During her lifetime of service in the area of tropical medicine Dr Warren gained worldwide recognition as a foremost leader in this field and as a well-respected physician, surgeon and lecturer.

Dr Warren has numerous Degrees, Accreditations and Honours. Her award of the Member of the Order of Australia in 1986 reflected the high esteem in which her work was regarded amongst her medical colleagues and the wider community.

Dr Warren’s research into the treatment of neuropathic bone lesions as seen in leprosy affected patients has received international acclaim. Her dedication is responsible for the implementation of unique treatments that have vastly improved the quality of life for multitudes of leprosy patients and has since been taken up by reconstructive surgeons specialising in other fields.

Dr Warren officially retired in 1990, but has continued teaching and consulting in Asia, the United Kingdom, Africa and Australia until recently. She continues to be an active correspondent and a tireless advocate for best practice in leprosy treatment, for changes in attitudes, and for corrections to wrong understandings about leprosy and its effects.