Ruth Heighway Memorial Prize and Medal

Dr Freida Ruth Heighway

Dr Freida Ruth Heighway, c.1930
Photo source
- The Sun (Sydney), National Library of Australia


Dr Freida Ruth Heighway (1907–1963) was an obstetrician and gynaecologist, the first woman to graduate from Sydney University with a medical degree and the first woman admitted to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

Dr Heighway graduated MBBS with honours in 1930 from the University of Sydney and began her medical education as a two-year Resident Medical Officer at the Royal Prince Alfred and North Shore Hospital.  She later travelled to Manchester, England, to work as a medical resident and trained in obstetrics and gynaecology.

In 1932 Dr Heighway moved to England and continued work as a Resident Medical Officer at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester. Upon return to Australia in 1934, she set up her own private practice in Burwood, New South Wales and took rooms in Macquarie Street, obtaining honorary appointments at the Rachel Forster Hospital for Women and Children and The Women's Hospital, Crown Street.

In 1945, Dr Heighway moved to Adelaide with her husband, Andrew Arthur Abbie, and three daughters and as she found that the obstetrics field of medicine was dominated by men, she set up a solo specialist practice which grew rapidly.  Although her work was centred around Queen Victoria's Maternity Hospital, she also cared for patients at the Royal Adelaide and Queen Elizabeth Hospitals.

Today the prize of $350 plus a medal, is awarded to the student for the highest marks in obstetrics and gynaecology for the degree of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery.

Further reading:  Freida Ruth Heighway – Australian Dictionary of Biography