Moya was a massive trailblazer for women as well as a huge intellect – graduating with a BSc degree in physics from Queen’s University in Belfast way back in 1939 and earning an even more impressive MSc a year later. This would be a huge achievement for someone these days, let alone for a young woman so many decades ago.
Moya was born in 1918 and was originally from Cavan in Ireland.
After graduating from Queen’s, she worked at the Royal Victoria Hospital and the Maternity Hospital in Belfast between 1949 and 1950.
In 1950 she moved to Manchester and what was then the Christie Hospital and Holt Radium Institute, becoming a consultant in radiotherapy and oncology in 1955 and working there until 1983.
Among her many achievements was the fact that she was the first person to give Tamoxifen to patients as part of a clinical trial in the early 1960s, publishing many papers on breast cancer.
According to Professor John Crown writing in The Irish Times: “Dr Cole is the great unsung heroine of Irish cancer research. She carried out the most influential piece of work ever done by an Irish cancer researcher, which has probably saved more than a million lives worldwide.”
Aside from her groundbreaking work on breast cancer it is also fair to say that without Moya Cole’s vision and determination there would be no St Ann’s Hospice. Yet almost unbelievably not many people know her name and her founding role in our history.
It was in 1967 that Moya and the then Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Rev Dr William Greer, had the idea for a hospice for the people of Greater Manchester. Together, they worked for 18 months to win over businesses and the public to their cause.
Their efforts were successful. St Ann’s was founded in 1969 and our hospice in Heald Green was officially opened by the Queen Mother in 1971. Within a few years, it was so successful that a second site was set up in Little Hulton in 1979.
Moya worked hard to secure enough funding to keep the hospice going when she became deputy chairman of St Ann’s in 1977, and finally chairman in 1983.
After retiring from Christie’s, Moya continued working as medical director and chair of the management committee. She was awarded an OBE in 1990. In 1992 a new unit at Little Hulton was named the Moya Cole Day Care Centre.
We’d love to hear of any memories or recollections of Moya if you have them, get in touch by emailing email@example.com