Elizabeth Hollings.
Article Type: Obituary
Subject: Occupational therapists (Biography)
Medicine, Physical (Personalities)
Author: Green, Sharon
Pub Date: 08/01/2011
Publication: Name: British Journal of Occupational Therapy Publisher: College of Occupational Therapists Ltd. Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 College of Occupational Therapists Ltd. ISSN: 0308-0226
Issue: Date: August, 2011 Source Volume: 74 Source Issue: 8
Persons: Biographee: Hollings, Elizabeth
Accession Number: 265976944
Full Text: 02.04.1917 to 08.05.2011

With the death of Elizabeth Marian Hollings, FCOT, always known as Betty to her friends and colleagues, the profession has lost another of the early pioneers.

Betty was born in Sidcup, Kent, the youngest of four children; her father died in 1918 in the post-war 'flu epidemic. Later educated at Red Maids in Bristol, Betty joined the profession towards the end of the Second World War, having previously served in the Land Army for over 2 years, in Kent, ploughing and tending livestock directly under the flight path of the German bombers. Prior to the war, she studied Fine Art at the Slade School in University College London, specialising in painting and sculpture, and thus she later had a real appreciation of the value of creative activities in the field of rehabilitation.

She entered training for occupational therapy at Dorset House in 1945, joining the last course run by the Government, specifically designed for mature students, to meet the then urgent need to rehabilitate victims of the war. After training she became Head Occupational Therapist successively at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, the Wolverhampton Royal and the Royal Surrey Hospital, Guildford. In 1951 she began her long-term commitment to the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Oxford (previously called the Wingfield Morris), where she remained until her retirement in 1978. Patients could be there for a year or more with TB spines, osteomyelitis or having spinal fusion operations. Therapy was mostly diversional until the polio epidemic when rehabilitation for activities of daily living became essential, preparing patients for their return to life at home.

During her time at the Nuffield, Betty became well known worldwide as a pioneer in the physical aspects of rehabilitation. She was involved in the planning and setting up of the Disabled Living Research Unit at the Mary Marlborough Lodge (MML) and in its evolution and growth to become a national centre. She always worked very closely with the engineers so MML included an engineering workshop and also a greenhouse and raised beds to help patients have the rehabilitation benefits of her passion for gardening. She initiated and coedited the publication Equipment for the Disabled. She contributed to many books and journals including Rehabilitation of the Severely Disabled, which she co-authored in 1971, and she presented papers at conferences worldwide. During 1956/57, Betty joined a team sent to Argentina by the British government, assisting after an outbreak of polio. She worked there for 8 months, using her experience gained in the United Kingdom. In 1962, she assisted in a course at Chicago University Medical Centre on children's prosthetics following her experience of working with children affected by thalidomide, a group of children with whom she had a special affiliation at MML. In 1972 she gave a series of lectures in Czechoslovakia at the invitation of the British Council.


In 1973 she was appointed to the Oxford Rehabilitation Research Unit on a 3-year project to evaluate the effectiveness of the follow-up of patients with rheumatoid arthritis by hospital-based paramedical personnel.

In the later years of her career, she was a member of the working group on services for physically handicapped people and their rehabilitation in the new town of Milton Keynes and a member of the Joint Committee on Mobility for the Disabled. She also contributed on many working parties set up by the Oxford Regional Hospital Board.

Betty assisted in the training of students, was an examiner, served on the Council and various committees of the Association and chaired her regional group. She was made an Honorary Fellow of the British Association of Occupational Therapists in 1974.

After her retirement, Betty was able to give time, once more, to painting and bird-watching, which had always been among her major interests. She was a keen gardener and for some years remained a member of the Disabled Gardening Group at the Nuffield Hospital. All this, together with various voluntary work, gave her a very full life.

Betty was one of a large family and, as such, was a much loved aunt to numerous nephews and nieces and their offspring. She had many friends, some of whom were longstanding. Although being of a retiring nature, she was courageous and a fighter for the things she cared deeply about. Her keen sense of humour often came to her aid in adverse circumstances. Sadly, few of the present generation of occupational therapists had the privilege of knowing her. However, those who knew her and worked with her were always inspired by her and greatly appreciated her friendship and professional guidance. She was a 'special lady'.

Dr Sharon Green, Oxford.
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