As we celebrate the 140th anniversary of Women’s College Hospital (WCH) this year, we are proud to celebrate our ongoing commitment to transforming healthcare for everyone, while reflecting on our rich history – a history of innovation and advancement that our legacy continues to stand on today.
The work of WCH simply wouldn’t be possible without the revolutionary women we’ve had in our corner. As Canada’s first and only standalone hospital focused on women’s health and equity, we are honoured to highlight those who came first, and those who stand today on the leading edge of health system innovation and equity as part of our WCH team.
Meet the WCH Revolutionaries of the past and present:
In 1928, Mabel Jones became the first Indigenous nurse to graduate from the WCH School of Nursing, and was well-known in her practice for combining western nursing practices with traditional Indigenous healing practices through the use of traditional plants. Mabel was a trailblazer, forced to overcome many systemic barriers constructed to erase Indigenous peoples from the practice of nursing.
Today, WCH is committed to preserving the sacred Indigenous practices through offering a blend of Western and Indigenous healing to our patients. Dr. Lisa Richardson, Strategic Lead of Indigenous Health at WCH, is a fierce advocate and champion of equity who has cultivated a space for inclusive, culturally safe, informed and accessible care at The Centre for Wise Practices in Indigenous Health at WCH.
In 1947, Dr. Marion Hilliard was appointed as Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at WCH. Known for her frank advice on sex, pregnancy, childbirth, infertility and menopause, Dr. Hilliard was a lifelong champion of women’s health, and an impassioned advocate for applying a sex and gender lens to healthcare and research.
Today, Dr. Cynthia Maxwell, Vice President, Medical Affairs and System Transformation at WCH, continues to champion women’s health through her work with WCH medical leaders as they innovate strategies to deliver exceptional healthcare through a sex and gender lens, such as a new Sex, Gender, and Reproductive Health Initiative based out of WCH.
In 1961, Dr. Lois Plumb was appointed as WCH’s first Chief of Psychiatry. As a strong, female leader in the field of psychiatry in Canada, Dr. Plumb was renowned for expanding the size of the department to increase the diversity of programs offered to women during different stages of life, including pregnancy and childbirth.
Today, Dr. Simone Vigod, Head of the WCH Department of Psychiatry, is a passionate supporter and advocate for mental health throughout the reproductive life stages. She is a leading expert in perinatal mood disorders and has conducted some of the largest studies worldwide on maternal mental illness around the time of pregnancy, understanding the unique risks that this life stage poses to both mothers and their children.
As a hospital built by women, for women, at a time when women were not allowed to practice medicine, we have never been afraid of the status quo — nor have we let it stop us from achieving historical milestones in the journey to health equity. The trailblazing legacy of our revolutionary physicians from past and present are true indicators of how Women’s College Hospital always has, and always will, see things differently.