Members of the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG) remember Professor Jill Mann with great fondness and appreciation. She was a founder member of its predecessor organisation (the UK Children’s Cancer Study Group, UKCCSG) and a pioneer in paediatric oncology.
She qualified at St Thomas’s medical school, London, then undertook training posts there, at Great Ormond Street and Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Initially appointed as a consultant paediatrician to Selly Oak Hospital, she was allowed a small amount of time to develop a service for children with cancer at Birmingham Children’s Hospital to which she later moved, building one of the largest paediatric oncology units in the UK which she led for 30 years before retiring in 2002.
With clinical responsibility for children with haematological and oncological disorders at BCH she quickly established a world-famous, multi-professional team around her to help organise, shape and drastically improve children’s cancer treatment and care across the region.
In 1977, she hosted the first meeting of the United Kingdom Children’s Cancer Study Group (UKCCSG) – the forerunner of today’s CCLG – at BCH. The UKCCSG took the lead in establishing what are now UK standards and protocols for treating children with cancer and ran many clinical trials to help improve the prognosis for childhood cancer. Her special interest in germ cell tumours led to her involvement in studies which helped develop new treatments.
Professor Richard Grundy, Chair of CCLG, shared his memories of working with Prof. Mann: “Jill was a tireless worker and a superb colleague. She had an instinctive understanding of the value of interdisciplinary work for children’s cancer patients and their families, and of the value of specialists in nursing and several other disciplines.
“One of the founding figures of the United Kingdom Children’s Cancer Study Group (UKCCSG), Jill contributed so much to that for rest of her professional career. The cross-disciplinary atmosphere was her natural environment – she was a great enabler of others to build on her skills and promote both the public face and the scientific advancement of the specialty.
“As a pioneer working in an era in which only 20% of children survived cancer, Jill played a key role in improving survival rates to more than 80%. Recognising that this often required increasingly intensive treatments, Jill set up a late effects service to learn from our success and to work towards reducing the ‘cost of cure’.
“Jill was a true visionary and was instrumental in creating the specialty we all recognise today as paediatric oncology. Her huge contribution to the field of childhood cancer and for her fundraising expertise was nationally recognised with a prestigious MBE in 2013.”
Another former colleague and honorary member of CCLG, Professor Bruce Morland, remembers Prof. Mann as a “wonderful and supportive mentor, colleague and friend, and a very astute clinician”
He added: “There are two abiding memories of Jill. Firstly, her handbag, which was rarely far from her side. It was a little like the scene from Mary Poppins at times.
“Jill could produce any number of medical tools, tape measures, patella hammers, lipsticks, paracetamol, toothbrushes etc. from its depths.
“Secondly, was her precious hand-written list of patients which served as an invaluable aide-memoire and seemingly dated back several years. Once on the list you never came off!
“We had to maintain it when Jill was away on leave, or you knew on her return you would get a gentle but nonetheless firm telling off!”
Ashley Ball-Gamble, CCLG Chief Executive, also paid tribute to Prof. Mann: “We remember with huge gratitude the immense contribution Jill made to both paediatric oncology and CCLG, with her vision, expertise and unwavering dedication.
She will be greatly missed and leaves behind an incredible legacy.
Shared on behalf of the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG) and SIOP Leadership