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Women’s College Kicks Off 100 Years of Women’s Health

from the January 24, 2011 issue of Connect

Women’s College Kicks Off 100 Years of Women’s Health

Ever since 1883, when Dr. Emily Stowe led a group of suffragists to create the Woman’s Medical College in Toronto, later to become Women’s College Hospital – the hospital’s history has been filled with a long list of “firsts.” In 1915, Dr. Minerva Reid became the first female chief of surgery in North America. In 1946, Dr. Ricky Kanee Schachter became the first woman in Canada to head an academic division of dermatology. Women’s College was the first hospital in Canada to house a perinatal intensive care unit, the first hospital in Ontario to use mammography and the first place in Canada to deliver test-tube quintuplets.

Today, after 100 years at the forefront of women’s health, Women’s College is at it again – creating the first ambulatory care hospital in Ontario with a focus on women’s health. And staff, physicians, volunteers, patients and stakeholders are spending 2011 looking forward to the hospital’s bright future while honouring its brilliant past with a yearlong 100th anniversary celebration.

The festivities kicked off on Jan. 11 with a spectacular reception and photography exhibit documenting 100 years of women’s health.

Proud descendents of WCH’s early pioneers, such as Dr. Alan Lossing, great-nephew of Dr. Stowe, and Jane Phillips, niece of Dr. Reid, attended the event on behalf of their ancestors – women who changed the future of women in medicine in Canada and led the way in making Women’s College Hospital a leader in women’s health.

“Tonight, we reach far back into our past to pay tribute to our founders and pioneers, our legends and leaders. Those remarkable women who blazed the trail and set us on our path,” said Marilyn Emery, president and CEO, before a crowd of over 300.

The evening offered a broad range of activities – guests enjoyed the rousing words and humour from writer, actor and comedian Sandra Shamas, who acted as host; listened to a moving performance by Grammy and Juno Award-winning singer/songwriter Dan Hill, whose mother was once a WCH patient; heard a short reading from a play about Dr. Emily Stowe, performed by Nightwood Theatre Group; and had a chance to meet with Susan Black, lead architect behind Women’s College Hospital’s new, state-of-the-art facility.

But the evening was really about the photographs. Panels of images were split into categories such as, “Nursing,” “Pioneers,” and “Breakthroughs,” and featured some of the most compelling WCH images from the past – and the present. Guests mingled throughout the zig-zag display of photos, as docents – former WCH nurses wearing their nurse’s caps – guided them through the exhibit offering fascinating stories behind the images.

Premier Dalton McGuinty sent a video message with a few special remarks to share with all in attendance.

“Congratulations on 100 years of women’s health,” said McGuinty. “Congratulations on 100 years of pioneering, breakthroughs and innovation; 100 years of the best care for women and their families. On behalf of Ontarians, I want to thank all the staff, all medical professionals and volunteers at Women’s College Hospital. Thank you for all you do, day in and day out.”

Also acknowledged during the evening, and met with resounding applause, was Miss Margaret Robins, founder of the Women’s College Hospital Archives and without whom our exhibit could never have been.

“The collection reflects the guiding spirit of the hospital,” said Robins. “The display is breathtaking.”

Though the exhibit closed on Sunday, Jan. 23, many more events are planned throughout the year to celebrate Women’s College Hospital’s 100th anniversary. For more information, click here.

If you would like to see more of funny-woman Sandra Shamas, tickets are on sale now for her new show, Wit’s End III: Lovelife. For more information, click here.

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