Breaking Barriers: A Father’s Support 

Fathers and father figures can play a significant role in positively influencing and impacting a child’s future. Their influence extends beyond the parental role as they serve as mentors, role models, and sources of encouragement. For Dr. Eva Mader Macdonald, her trailblazing medical career was first formed by her father’s support and influence.  

Dr. Eva Mader Macdonald, 1950s

Dr. Anthony Ivan Mader was a trained surgeon and operated a private hospital of 30beds in Halifax. He is well known for treating the victims of the Halifax Explosion in 1917. He is also well known as the father of Dr. Eva Mader Macdonald, a pioneer at Women’s College Hospital (WCH) and powerful advocate for breaking down barriers in medical sciences for women. 

Growing up, Eva had aspirations of becoming a nurse, but after the Halifax Explosion in 1917 and helping her father tend to the victims, she decided to pursue medical school.  

“My father was a very demanding man as far as obedience was concerned and my desire was to be a nurse. I had no option, I had to go to university first…. But after December the sixth, 1917, that was obvious that I could do a good job as a doctor and [in an] emergency. I told my father that I would like to study medicine.” 

Dr. Eva Macdonald

In the early 1920s, it was incredibly uncommon for women to be pursuing education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Determined to follow her dreams with the support of her father, Eva entered medical school as one of only two women in the 1927 graduating class from Dalhousie Medical School.  

Eva recalls, “My father said to me: ‘You got to act as a man as well as woman. Keep your eyes wide open. You are not going to fear when they stand up and you go in a room.’” 

She became one of the first female doctors in Canada.  

Dr. Eva Mader Macdonald working in the clinical laboratory at WCH, 1952

A father’s unwavering belief in their child’s abilities and potential can inspire self-confidence and the courage to pursue ambitious goals. Eva’s supportive upbringing not only shaped her incredibly influential medical career, but her passion for gender equity in the health sciences. In 1929, Eva joined the staff at WCH as a bacteriologist and was later promoted to the Director of Laboratories. She helped to establish a pathology fellowship for young women. Throughout her career, Eva created many advanced training opportunities for female students. She was dedicated to breaking down barriers for women in medical sciences. 

Dr. Eva Mader Macdonald’s remarkable journey in the medical field exemplifies the profound impact fathers and father figures have on shaping a child’s career path. Driven by her father’s teachings, Eva’s journey exemplifies the transformative impact of a supportive father figure on shaping a child’s professional trajectory. 

This Father’s Day, make a gift towards health equity in honour of the special someone in your life and send a customizable e-card to show your appreciation.


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