Geraldine Roberts. Consultant Biochemist.

Grealdine Roberts
An Appreciation

Consultant Biochemist, Royal Group of Hospitals/Belfast Link Laboratories, N Ireland.
Born 1944; died January 9th 2006.

Geraldine obtained her primary degree in Chemistry before moving to work as a basic grade Biochemist in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in 1966. She loved her work and life in Edinburgh but moved back to Belfast to take up post in the Royal Victoria Hospital in 1968, after the death of her only sibling, younger brother Brian, from aplastic anaemia. Through running the paediatric biochemistry laboratory, she developed a great interest in inherited metabolic disease which remained a passion throughout her career, and she went on to single-handedly set up an excellent regional metabolic laboratory service in Belfast.

Her other great passion was music: a close friend from her school days described her in a funeral tribute as ’’intelligent, diffident, responsible and reserved in class, whilst at the piano she was confident, authoritative, passionate and accomplished’’. At age 17 Geraldine won a scholarship from the Royal Academy of Music in London, and could have made a career as a concert pianist, but chose instead to study chemistry with a view to entering laboratory medicine. However music remained a huge part of her life, both as a piano accompanist and a choral singer. Skiing holidays, bridge evenings and gardening were also very important to her.

Geraldine became ill in the autumn of 2001. After some treatment she stabilised, although with very limited mobility necessitating use of an electric wheelchair, much to the disgust of this very independent lady. She resolutely returned to work, taking on a further term of office as Head of Biochemistry in one of the largest combined hospital laboratories in the UK, and succeeded in bringing neonatal screening by tandem MS to N Ireland in 2004.

However illness again overtook her; with difficulty she made it to the Society for Study of Inborn Errors of Metabolism meeting in Amsterdam, September 2004, a meeting she did not like to miss, but was forced to stop work through ill-health just a few months later. She is survived by her mother, Muriel. Geraldine will be remembered not just for her major contribution to the development of metabolic disease investigation in N Ireland and her commitment to this area, but also for her dry wit, her wisdom and for the support and encouragement she extended to those who worked with her. She will be very sadly missed by friends and colleagues in the clinical biochemistry community both locally and further afield.

[Clodagh Loughrey]

- This article was taken from the ACBI Newsletter for May 2006