Dame Cicely Saunders was born in 1918, the oldest of three children. She was educated at Roedean School (1932 to 1937) and then went to St Anne’s College Oxford to read PPE. The war intervened and with the sense that she wanted to do something more useful, she left to study nursing at St Thomas’ Hospital, qualifying in 1944. After the war, she returned to St Anne’s and in one year completed her degree and got a Diploma in Public and Social Administration passing with distinction, then moved on to become a Lady Almoner.
Her interest in palliative care and pain control developed early. From 1945 as an Almoner and then working in hospice care as a volunteer nurse, she was involved with the aftercare of patients with terminal illness. She saw what was needed, particularly better pain control, and started planning a specialized hospice in the late 1950s.
Cicely Saunders opened St. Christopher’s – the first modern hospice in the world in 1967. Cicely planned that St Christopher’s would be the first research and teaching hospice linking expert pain and symptom control, compassionate care, teaching and clinical research, pioneering the field of palliative care.