Celebrating Women in Medicine at the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

FMWC National Pres, Dr. Bev Johnson, National Honorary Secretary Dr. Clover Hemans and Ms. Megaera Fitzpatrick, great grandaughter of Dr. Emily Stowe.

The Federation of Medical Women of Canada was in London, Ontario last week to attend the 2018 Canadian Medical Hall of Fame festivities hosted by the Canadian Medical Association. The highlight of this year’s investiture ceremony is the long overdue recognition of Dr. Emily Stowe as the first woman to practice medicine in Canada. Accepting the honour on her behalf and to a standing ovation of the crowd, was her great granddaughter, Megaera Fitzpatrick, who was in attendance along with another great granddaughter, Mary Jane Stowe. In accepting the honour, Ms. Fitzpatrick said of her great grandmother that she “did not take no for an answer”. Dr. Stowe was honoured not only for her “first person” status, but also for her commitment to increasing women’s opportunities in medicine. She was the driving force behind Women’s College Hospital and instrumental in opening the doors for women to enter medical education. Her daughter, Augusta Stowe-Gullen, was the first woman to graduate from a medical school in Canada.

Dr. Cheryl Rockman-Greenberg

Also honoured this year is Dr. Cheryl Rockman-Greenberg, Distinguished Professor of the University of Manitoba, Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, and the Department of Biochemistry and Medical Genetics. She is Director of Metabolic Services and a clinician geneticist in the Program in Genetics and Metabolism at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba. Dr. Rockman-Greenberg’s research is in applied molecular genetics focused on conditions over-represented in Manitoba’s unique populations, such as Mennonite and Indigenous communities. Working in collaboration with these communities, Dr. Rockman-Greenberg assists in the development and implementation of diagnostic and infant screening programmes, bridging the research and clinical divide through translating knowledge into practice.

And the crowd was sparkling. Canadian actor, Colm Feore was a dapper and entertaining Master of Ceremonies. Everyone was dressed in their finest, with a couple of hockey shirts in the crowd in sympathy with the Humboldt crash victims. The pre-dinner reception was a hive of activity as attendees were excited to reconnect with colleagues and share reminisces as well as their plans for future connection and collaboration. Pictures were taken, toasts were made and an overall air of festivity inspired the room. The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame has posted pictures here. You can also check out the tweets from the evening on Twitter under #CMHF2018.

There have been 16 women inducted in the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame since the first investiture ceremony in 1994, 24 years ago. There have been 109 men. The first list of laureates was composed of 9 men and 1 woman – Dr. Maude Abbott. The last group of laureates, for 2018, included only two women, Drs. Emily Stowe and Cheryl Rockman-Greenberg, an instance matched previously once before in 1998 when Drs. Roberta Bondar and Maud Menten were honoured with the award. There have been 12 years where no women where inducted at all. At. All. Of the 16 women laureates, 8 honours were awarded posthumously.

Canadian Medical Hall of Fame - Women Laureates

Dr. Julie Silver, writing in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation in 2017, highlights the importance of recognition awards which, in addition to building and supporting reputation and providing financial reward, present a “unique opportunity to assess a body of work” and serve as “external markers of professional achievement and are instrumental in advancing careers…”. Her research is eye-opening, as numbers tend to be, and contributes to a growing body of knowledge focused on the disparities between men and women in career recognition and reward. The reason for the gender gap is multifactorial but primarily arises from implicit or unconscious biases, which can be mitigated through effort and by best practices. The leaky pipeline theory has been “cited and disputed”. An double-whammy for women is that given the under-representation of women as award recipients, chairs and chiefs may find it too much work to put women forward given they are unlikely to be successful. And the problem continues…

The FMWC has the proud honour of administering a number of recognition awards to women physicians, medical students and those who support them. You can find more information about our awards here. We encourage you to consider your colleagues, mentors, and students for these awards.

The deadline for the 2019 Canadian Medical Hall of Fame laureate nominations is June 25, 2018. Up to 6 individuals may be selected each year. There are women physicians all over Canada deserving of a nomination. Look around your clinics and in your communities for the next laureates. It’s up to us to recognize the leaders in our midst. And, perhaps more importantly, help contribute to the creation of future women laureates with recognition and reward today and throughout their long careers, from MD student to life achievement recognition.

Dr. Clover Hemans, Mary Jane Stowe, Megaera Fitzpatrick, Dr. Anne Nice, Dr. Bev Johnson and Dr. Linda Stirk

“These awards are important in recognizing and rewarding the hard work, dedication and commitment of women physicians to excellence in medicine. The FMWC encourages everyone to consider the work of women when award committees announce their calls for nominations” said Dr. Beverly Johnson, National President, FMWC.

Who would you like to see honoured by the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame? Share your suggestions with us in the comments, below.




Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba – profile page – Cheryl Rockman-Greenberg

Silver, Julie K. MD; Blauwet, Cheri A. MD; Bhatnagar, Saurabha MD; Slocum, Chloe S. MD; Tenforde, Adam S. MD; Schneider, Jeffrey C. MD; Zafonte, Ross D. DO; Goldstein, Richard PhD; Gallegos-Kearin, Vanessa MD; Reilly, Julia M. MD; Mazwi, Nicole L. MD, "Women Physicians are Underrepresented in Recognition Awards from the Association of Academic Physiatrists" American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation: January 2018 - Volume 97 - Issue 1 - p 34–40 doi: 10.1097/PHM.0000000000000792