Dr. Dorothy Borsook’s story of perseverance

2019-01-03 3:55:25 PM

Last month, we shared Dr. Borsook’s spice cake recipe, her contribution to the WCH’s fundraising cookbook, For Pleasures of the Table. This month, we share her story of determination and perseverance as a trailblazing leader from Women’s College Hospital’s history.

Dr. Dorothy (Dora) Borsook, (bottom row, second from the right) with the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine, Class of 1931. 

Dr. Dorothy (Dora) Borsook is a special figure at WCH and in the history of women in medicine.

As a married medical student at the University of Toronto during the late 1920s, Dorothy Borsook was forced to take a year’s leave of absence to hide her pregnancy and then child. This is because mothers, even expectant mothers, would have been expelled from the Faculty of Medicine at the time.

Determined to be a doctor, she returned to school and was able to graduate with the Class of 1931. Unfortunately for Dr. Borsook, the Toronto Daily Star became aware of her story and reported on her graduation. The media attention and the exposure of Dr. Borsook’s long held secret did not go over well with the Faculty of Medicine. The University of Toronto refused to allow her to participate in any future medical residencies and internships.

Dr. Borsook was able to work as a volunteer clinician at WCH and Toronto General Hospital. In 1937, WCH offered her a staff position in its obstetrics departments, which she readily accepted. A decade later, the hospital helped her become a registered obstetrician and gynecologist. She remained on the staff of WCH until in death in 1982, ultimately becoming its Chief of Obstetrics.

To honour her memory and her fierce loyalty to WCH, her family established the Dorothy Borsook Memorial Fund. This fund was awarded to doctors for research in the area of obstetrics & gynecology. Over the years, the fund assisted with the important research conducted by many WCH doctors including Dr. Anne Kenshole, Dr. James Ruderman and our current Chief of Staff, Dr. Sheila Laredo.