Happy National Physicians’ Day!

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On this day, May 1, 2018, we mark the first annual National Physicians’ Day, the day of Emily Stowe’s birth, to celebrate and show appreciation for the work that physicians do for their patients, for their communities, and for their students all year ‘round.

Join us on this inaugural National Physicians’ Day to recognize all physicians who have contributed to the health of Canadians and the communities they live in.

We salute your commitment and dedication to your patients.
We support you in your career aspirations.
We celebrate you in your everyday tasks and once-in-a-lifetime achievements.

The Canadian Medical Association was behind the push to recognize May 1 as National Physicians' Day, following the example of Ontario and Nova Scotia, who have traditionally recognized Doctor’s Day on May 1. We thank them for their efforts.

It is a special honor to have National Physicians’ Day fall on Emily Stowe’s birthday. Emily Stowe was forced to take her medical training in the United States due to restrictions on educating women in Canada. She returned to Canada in 1867, defiant and determined to practice medicine whether the medical men would accept her or not. She practiced without a license until 1880 when the College of Physicians and Surgeon of Ontario granted her license based on her years of experience and not the exam she refused to sit.

Emily Stowe was not only the first women physician, she was also a leader in the Canadian suffrage movement; hers was a prominent voice in Canada for women’s access to education and exercise of the vote. Her daughter, Augusta Stowe-Gullen, was the first woman to graduate from medical school in Canada, the first of thousands of women who fought for access to the profession and its specialties over the decades; it wasn’t until 1995 that women medical school enrolments equaled those of men. Emily Stowe was instrumental in opening the door to women’s equal pursuit of learning and entry into the professions. Today, women physicians make up 41.2% of practicing physicians; 45.2% in family medicine, and 39.6% in specialty practice according to 2016 Canadian Medical Association statistics.

For almost 100 years, the Federation of Medical Women of Canada has supported women in medicine. The bright idea of Dr. Maude Abbott was caught by 5 other women on the lawn outside the CMA meeting in 1924. At the time, women made up a small cadre of practitioners, their interests, both clinical and social, differed from their male colleagues. There was a need for women physicians to come together in celebration and support of women in medicine and women’s health. Over the years, the FMWC mandate has expanded to include advocacy for women’s health and women in medicine, tackling a range of issues from equal pay to women’s reproductive health to advancing women physicians in leadership.

But first, we celebrate, every year, at our annual general meeting and national conference.

The FMWC annual national conference is an opportunity for women physicians from across Canada to come together and learn the latest in women’s health and physician wellness; to experience the camaraderie of colleagues who understand the challenges and joys of being a woman in medicine. Our liaison to other national women physician’s organizations through the Medical Women’s International Association brings us together in addressing the issues of women in medicine and women’s health in the international context, creating a global network of women and connected to a genealogy that includes Emily Stowe, Maude Abbott, and Elizabeth Bagshaw, to name just a few of the outstanding women physicians who have shaped women’s health and altered the image of woman both in society and in the practice of medicine.

On this first National Physicians' Day, we say Cheers! to all physicians and those who support them … and a special Happy Birthday to Emily Stowe!



Number and percent distribution of physicians by specialty and sex, Canada 2016, Canadian Medical Association.