Mavis Laline MacDougall (nee McClymont)

Sourced from Milestones of New Zealand Sexual Health by Dr Margaret Sparrow (1)

Graduate of 1941

This biography is based on the references listed in the bibliography as well as an interview with Dr Janet Say, a Clinical Microbiologist and later a Sexual Health Physician, who was a working colleague of Mavis’s towards the latter part of her career at Auckland Hospital. Dame Margaret Sparrow, fellow Venereologist and Reproductive Rights Advocate, reviewed the biography.


The Early Years

Mavis Laline was born on the 10th April 1916 to Amy Frances (nee Barber) and Albert George McClymont. Her parents, who were both New Zealand born, were married on 8th April 1912 and from the wedding announcement it appears they were both from Masterton families. At the time of their union, Albert was a photographic artist working in Wellington but had passed his preliminary examination to enter the medical profession. His fiancée was supportive of him in this pursuit, and he subsequently commenced his training at Otago Medical School in 1915. It is probable that Mavis was born in Dunedin the following year. Albert did some part-time work with his photography and Amy supplemented the family income by keeping a shop in Dunedin until shortly before the birth of their son John Raynor in 1918. (2)

Sourced from Birth Search (

Albert arranged for Amy and the two children to go to stay with her sister in Wellington during 1919. He passed his final exams in 1919 and thereafter was a house surgeon at Dunedin Hospital. In early 1920, against Albert’s wishes, Amy came back to live in Dunedin, but he was “cold towards her and did not live with her” and it appeared there was an irreconcilable breakdown in their relationship. Albert would come to see Mavis and John for short visits, but he never stayed long and showed no desire to continue living with his wife. On the 6th September 1921 they entered a deed of separation and three weeks later he went into private practice in Havelock South. After the signing of the separation, it became known that he had a relationship with another woman, who had moved with him to Havelock South. She died in 1929. At the time of the divorce petition by Albert in 1932, he was serving as a medical practitioner in Apia, Samoa. Over these years, it was reported that Amy had found it difficult to obtain the money she was entitled to under the deed of separation and therefore, she was opposing the divorce action. The judge dismissed Albert’s petition and declared he was the cause of the separation with ample evidence that his conduct was wrongful. The divorce petition, with these rather explicit details, was reported in the Auckland Star. This no doubt would have been a most embarrassing time for Mavis who was now sixteen years of age. (2)

At the age of eight, Mavis was living in Island Bay, Wellington and had received a glowing report in the Wellington New Zealand Times on her abilities as a budding elocutionist. (3) Later, that same year, the Wairapa Daily Times reported that she had placed second in the girls’ recitation (under 9 years) at the Wellington competitions. (4)

Sourced from Papers Past: New Zealand Times, Volume LI, Issue 11829, 15 May 1924, Page 10. (3)

By 1931, Mavis was living in Auckland and attending Auckland Girls Grammar. She had completed Form V.A. and had received the form prize for Latin, Home Science and History. (5) In this same year, she also passed the Medical Preliminary Examination which she had sat in December.(6) She successfully passed the University Bursary Examination in 1933 with a score of 1550 (7) and the University of New Zealand National Scholarship Examination in 1934 with a score of 1685.(8),

University of Otago Years and Commencement of Career

In 1935, she attended the University of Otago and successfully passed her Medical Intermediate Examinations in Physics and Chemistry (9) and in 1936 her Zoology and Biology. (10) Newspaper reports indicate she passed the first professional in 1938, (11), the second professional in 1939 (12,,) the first section in 1940 (13) and the following year the second section of the third professional examination (14) for the degree of M.B., Ch.B. It is not known where she lived during her years at the University of Otago nor where she did her two years as a house surgeon. However, by October 1944, at the age of twenty-eight, she was announcing that she was setting up her own practice at 400 Sandringham Road, Auckland; she was still practicing from this address in 1954. (15, 16)

Sourced from Papers Past: New Zealand Herald, Volume 81, Issue 25036, 28 October 1944, Page 6. (15)

It would appear from the 1957 New Zealand Gazette (17), that she was now married to Dr Lindsay MacDougall, a 1939 graduate of Otago Medical School, and they were practising from the same address at 569 Richardson Road, Mount Roskill. By 1969 they had moved their practice to 5 Woodville Road, Remuera, Auckland. (18)

Sourced from: 75.pdf ( (17) (The New Zealand Gazette is the official newspaper of record of the New Zealand Government.)

An April, 1954 issue of the Christchurch based daily paper Press has an advertisement for the auction of a “magnificent Merivale bungalow with nine main rooms and all the necessary offices “of Dr Lindsay MacDougall who is now resident in Auckland. (19) His engagement in 1944 (20) which indicates he and his future wife both came from Christchurch families and their divorce in 1953 (21) are also recorded in the Press.

Venereology Career

During the intervening years, Mavis developed a growing interest in sexually transmitted diseases and early in her sixth decade she commenced work in 1970 at the Auckland Hospital Venereal Disease (VD) Outpatient Clinic. She ran the women’s clinic until the early 1980s. At her retirement at the age of sixty-five years (22) Dr Say took over the role.

In 1971, the New Zealand Director-General of Health, Dr D.P. Kennedy, introduced the Awards Scheme for training in Venereology. This enabled Hospital Board staff to be trained for clinic expansion. Mavis was the first recipient of the award, which allowed her to travel to the University of Liverpool in 1971, where she obtained her Diploma of Venereology after successfully taking the three-month course. During this time, at her own expense, she visited other VD clinics in the United Kingdom, Europe, and North America. She also visited China in 1975 to observe their (at that time) low rate of syphilis infection. (1) She was the first from Australasia to study for this diploma and the first New Zealand female graduate to specialise in Venereology. (1) The New Zealand Gazette records her registration in Venereology on the 18th November 1971. (23) England was at the forefront of Venereology research and kept good statistics. Subsequently, New Zealand followed their coding system. (Dr J Say, personal communication). Dame M Sparrow, who was registered in 1985 in the speciality of Venereology, in personal communication, advised that Mavis supported the establishment of the New Zealand Venereological Society and recorded an apology for the inaugural meeting in Wellington on 4th December 1978.

Sourced from: 246.pdf ( (23) (The New Zealand Gazette is the official newspaper of record of the New Zealand Government.)

The following details on the early Auckland Hospital VD clinic are from Dr Say’s oral recollections with some added references from Dr Sparrow’s “Milestones in New Zealand Sexual Health history” (1):

Initially the VD clinic was in the basement of the Wallace Block, which was built in 1924. (24) This early clinic had an “ancient marble slab” for the examinations which was “very easy to clean”. This building has since been demolished and been replaced by the Auckland Hospital Carpark A. The clinic was later moved into what is now known as the fifteen-storey support building. The clinic was situated on the first floor and consisted of a tiny interview room with a small desk with two chairs, two small cubicles for changing into a gown, and an examination room. The woman would be put into the lithotomy position for the pelvic examination and both vaginal and throat swabs were taken. She was then sent to the phlebotomist, attached to the outpatient clinic, to have her bloods taken. Mavis promoted cervical smear tests for all her patients. (1) The main venereal diseases in the early 1970s were gonorrhoea with some syphilis still about but its’ rise during World War II had substantially subsided by the 1970s. In addition, there would have been Chlamydia circulating but it was not diagnosable at that time due to no test being developed for it until the mid-1980s. Although thrush was not a sexually transmitted disease, it was also frequently diagnosed and treated. Mavis only saw the women at the VD outpatient clinic; many of them were local women from the sex-worker clientele. (Dr Say thinks a Dr McDonald saw the men.) The women’s clinic ran from 4pm to 6pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, after the rest of the outpatient clinics had finished. Mavis would only see six to seven women at a clinic session. She had no nurse and only the use of a part-time secretary to make appointments. The clinics provided a free service, free treatment and the collected information was confidential. Dr Say said Mavis kept the VD clinic as her private domain; she was meticulous in swab-taking and did her own follow-up of the women. For women diagnosed with gonorrhoea, she insisted they come to the clinic for three screening follow-up appointments to ensure they no longer had this sexual transmitted disease.

Mavis developed a good working relationship with a Dr James Frew, the Ports of Auckland health officer. Some of the sex workers worked as “Ship Girls”. They would board the ships going from Auckland to Tauranga or to Christchurch and would return on the ships travelling back to Auckland. She would do their follow-up visits and treat them for any sexually transmitted diseases.

Involvement with the New Zealand Medical Women’s Association

Mavis was an active and long serving member in the Auckland branch of the New Zealand Medical Women’s Association. Her early skills developed as an elocutionist were put to good use as she reported at these meetings on her overseas study trip in 1971 and her Chinese trip in 1975. (25)

From 1951-55 she was Treasurer, from 1975-78 President, and from 1980-81 she served on the Auckland committee. At the national level, from 1983-85, she was the National Corresponding Secretary. This involvement allowed her to combine her desire to keep abreast of the latest research while fulfilling her love of travel. She travelled to the Medical Women’s International Association congresses as a New Zealand representative in 1970 (Melbourne), 1974 (Brazil), 1976 (Berlin), 1980 (Birmingham, UK) and 1984 (Vancouver). (1, 25)

Retirement Years

Mavis moved to an apartment at 1/622 Remuera Road, Auckland in 1984 and continued to maintain her registration as a Medical Practitioner and a specialist in Venereology up to 1990. (26) In addition to her continuing involvement through membership and attending the Auckland meetings of the Auckland Medical Women’s Association and the New Zealand Venereological Society, Mavis was an enthusiastic bridge player.

In October 1999, Colleen Moses, a senior St John’s officer was asked by the police to check on Mavis at her Remuera apartment. She was found to have passed away at the age of 83 years. (Personal communication Dr J Say)

Mavis could be quite gruff in her professional role, but the sex workers respected her and, on her passing, they remembered her with fondness along with her colleagues, friends and bridge associates. (22) Dr Say believes she can be regarded as a true New Zealand icon in the area of Venereology.


  1. Sparrow M. Milestones in New Zealand Sexual Health. The Australasian Sexual Health Conference June, 2003; Christchurch, New Zealand2003.
  2. Refused. Divorce Petition. Doctor in Apia. Auckland Star. 1932 09.11.1932. Available from:
  3. Competitions Contests at Masterton. New Zealand Times. 1924 15.05.1924. Available from:
  4. Local and General. Wairapa Daily Times [Local Gossip]. 1924 30.08.1924 [14.02.2022]. Available from:
  5. Prize-Giving Season. Grammar Schools. Breaking-Up Ceremonies. . Auckland Star. 1931 14.12.1931. Available from:
  6. Matriculation. December Examinations. Auckland Pass Lists. Auckland Star. 1932 23.01.1932. Available from:
  7. Bursaries Awarded University Entrance North Island Successes. New Zealand Herald. 1934 30.01.1934. Available from:
  8. Entrance Examinations Results Announced. Evening Post. 1935 24.01.1935. Available from:
  9. List of Successful Candidates: Medical Intermediate. Timaru Herald. 1935 21.12.1935. Available from:
  10. More Passes. University Terms. Auckland Star. 1936 28.10.1936. Available from:
  11. University of New Zealand Medical Professional Examinations Successful Candidates. Press. 1938 14.12.1938. Available from:
  12. Medical School Degree Examinations Successful Students. Timaru Herald. 1939 14.12.1939.
  13. Medical School Professional Lists: Successful Students. New Zealand Herald. 1940 14.12.1940. Available from:
  14. Medical Exams Second Section. Auckland Star. 1942 08.01.1942. Available from:
  15. Business and Professional. New Zealand Herald. 1944 28.10.1944. Available from:
  16. Supplement to the New Zealand Gazette: Register of Medical Practitioners [Internet]. Wellington1954. Available from:
  17. Supplement to the New Zealand Gazette: New Zealand Medical Register 1957 [Internet]. Wellington1957. Available from:
  18. Supplement to the New Zealand Gazette: New Zealand Medical Register 1969 [Internet]. Wellington: Government Printer; 1969. Available from:
  19. Auctions. Press [Advertisement = Auctions]. 1954 10.04.1954. Available from:
  20. For Women Current Notes: Engagement. Press. 1944 14.03.1944. Available from:
  21. Supreme Court Undefended Divorce Petitions. Press. 1953 26.02.1953. Available from:
  22. Say J. Obituary: Dr Mavis MacDougall. New Zealand Venereological Society Journal. 1999;36.
  23. Supplement to the New Zealand Gazette: NZ Medical Register and Register of Specialists [Internet]. Wellington: Government Printer; 1985. Available from:
  24. Bryder L. Hospitals – Establishment of Hospitals in New Zealand: Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand; 2011 [cited 2022 15.02.2022]. Available from:
  25. Maxwell MD. Women Doctors in New Zealand – An Historical Perspective 1921-1986. Auckland: IMS (NZ) Ltd.; 1990.
  26. The New Zealand Gazette: New Zealand Medical Register and Register of Specialists and Register of General Practitioners [Internet]. Wellington1990. Available from:
Print Friendly, PDF & Email