Women's College Hospital - Health Care for Women, Revolutionized

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About the Department of Anesthesia

Our History

Woman’s Medical College was founded in 1883 in response to the refusal of medical schools in Toronto to admit women to study medicine. In 1895 the College amalgamated with its sister institution in Kingston, Ontario and changed its name to the Ontario Medical College for Women. In order for students to gain practical clinical experience, a clinic called the dispensary was opened in Toronto in 1898. This gave women the opportunity to practice in branches of medicine not previously available to them.

In 1914, Dr. Margaret McCallum Johnston (1875-1947) was appointed chief of anesthesia. In the early years, she was assisted by her husband, Dr. Samuel Johnston, who practiced at the Toronto General Hospital and was the first full time anesthetist in Canada. Dr. Hannah Reid, who was also an obstetrician, assisted Dr. Johnston as well, and in 1926 succeeded her as chief of anesthesia.

Between 1914 and 1935, numerous types of surgery were performed. Local anesthetics such as cocaine and procaine (“novocain”) were often used. Anesthetists played an important role in obstetrics, as shown by the number of caesarean sections and forceps deliveries that were performed.

Dr. Ellen Blatchford

Dr. Ellen Blatchford was appointed chief of anesthesia in 1932. During Dr. Blatchford's tenure the hospital moved to its current location in 1935, to be close to the University of Toronto. At that time the hospital had four operating rooms and a delivery suite. Dr. Blatchford published the first scientific papers on anesthesia from Women's College Hospital and spoke often at the Toronto Academy of Medicine. In 1943, the annual report recorded the fact that six continuous caudal (spinal) anesthetics were given for pain relief in labour. This was the precursor to modern-day labour epidurals.


Dr. Evelyn Bateman

Dr. Evelyn Bateman succeeded Dr. Blatchford as anesthetist-in-chief in 1956. During her tenure, residents and interns were trained in anesthetics at Women's College Hospital (full affiliation of the department of anesthesia with the University of Toronto came in 1969). The surgical suite had a modern recovery room. There was an anesthetist in the hospital at all times to deal with emergency surgery and obstetrical complications. At that time, Dr. Bateman and Dr. Hilda Roberts published numerous scientific papers about clinical anesthesia for operations and for obstetrics. Dr. Bateman's legacy continues with a professorship in ambulatory anesthesia in her name.


Dr. Edith Rogoman

The department continued to develop and grow, and in 1972 Dr. Edith Rogoman became anesthetist-in-chief. Open heart and major chest surgery were now performed daily. The field of obstetrics evolved and an anesthetist was dedicated to the labour floor not only to assist during emergencies but also to provide pain relief. A neonatal intensive care unit was established and mothers arrived from all over Ontario to take advantage of this new facility which was housed in a new wing of the hospital, built in 1970.



Dr. Bronwyn Gates

In 1982, Dr. Bronwyn Gates became anesthetist-in-chief. At that time, the hospital was a full service "general hospital," although it was small. During her tenure, the beginnings of same-day surgery emerged (now called ambulatory surgery) and became a priority for the hospital. Research in obstetrical anesthesia increased, along with a veritable “population explosion” from 2,400 deliveries per year to almost 3,500 deliveries per year.



Dr. Jean Kronberg

In 1989, Dr. Jean Kronberg became anesthetist-in-chief and continues in this position to the present day. Women's College Hospital continued to focus on areas of excellence such as ambulatory surgery and obstetrics.

Through the 1990's, ambulatory surgery grew in prominence and efficiency. The department of anesthesia contributed greatly to this development by modernizing the drugs and equipment used. Research in the department of anesthesia helped patients wake up from their anesthetics free of the usual side effects and pain. At the same time, Women's College Hospital became well known in Canada and abroad for innovation, research and teaching in obstetrical anesthesia and pain relief.


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Department of Anesthesia

About the department


Our future

Faculty and Staff

Annual Reports


  • Fully affiliated with:
  • University of Toronto

  • A member of:
  • Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario (CAHO)