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Vision and leadership – Remembering Cicely

Author: Dr Richard Scheffer
06 August 2015

Dr Richard Scheffer, Senior Registrar at St Christopher’s Hospice from 1985 to 1988 reflects on the ‘Remembering Cicely’ conference held at St Christopher’s in June.

Two words stand out from the recent day to remember the contribution of Dame Cicely: vision and leadership.

No-one who encountered Dame Cicely, no matter how peripherally, could not remember both her vision and her leadership. It was these qualities that time and again those reminding of us of their memories of Dame Cicely recalled – as a scientist, as a doctor, as “the boss,” but also as a friend, as a godmother, as an inspiration.  

Woven into the day was a constant reminder of another important quality – that of Dame Cicely’s spirituality, her personal search for meaning and her expression of that through her faith.

I met Dame Cicely as a medical student in South Africa and, like all those present at this day of remembering, had been captured by her vision and excited by her leadership.

We were a broad group that she influenced: nurses, doctors, social workers, chaplains, volunteers. All gathered to remember the woman and her remarkable effect, not just on our lives, but the countless numbers that each of us had cared for over our careers.

It is rare to be invited to a time of reflection on one’s career and although the day was focussed on Dame Cicely, inevitably, being back at St. Christopher’s, it became a time of reflection and remembering of one’s own experience of learning from such a charismatic person, together with great people, who shared their skills and experience with us so freely and generously.

It was not always an easy nor a pleasant experience. Learning to be with, and support, those who are dying and their loved ones, while retaining one’s personal equilibrium is painful at times. Everyone present had a story of how Dame Cicely had cared for and supported them through a difficult experience.

Each person I spoke to at the end of the day seemed to have had a similar experience to mine. I had remembered not just the difficulties of learning and growing but especially the excitement of the experience of excellence of care at St Christopher’s benefitting from Dame Cicely’s vision and leadership.

A truly remarkable day. Thank you.

This article was originally published on the St Christopher's Hospice website and appears here with permission. Follow the Remembering Cicely series on ehospice this week.

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