One of the earliest success stories from the unit was the development of the cervical cancer smear test at Hammersmith Hospital which is now a routine test carried out throughout the world. Professor Erica Wachtel who worked with Professor McClure Browne at Hammersmith Hospital dedicated her career to cytopathology. She was instrumental in the formation of The British Society for Clinical Cytology, the first meeting of which was at Hammersmith Hospital in 1962. A number of well known gynaecologists made important contributions to the establishment of exfoliative cytology of the female genital tract but it is acknowledged that Erica probably contributed more than anyone to the early days of cytopathology. Her research and that of many others led to the establishment of the National Cervical Cytology Screening Service which began officially in 1967. In preparation for this service, five training schools were set up to teach the skills of cytodiagnosis – with the main one being at the Hammersmith Hospital under the tenure of Professor Erica Wachtel. The National request/report form was also introduced in 1967 and half a million smear tests were performed. Expansion was rapid and by 1970 nearly 2.5 million tests per year were being recorded, increasing to 3.9 million by 1986.

Sadly in June 1980, Professor Erica Wachtel died suddenly at her home in London. She trained many clinicians and scientists from overseas and her very personal interests in each of her trainees was sustained throughout her career.

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