Celebrating Canadian Women Physicians Day

In 1875, Dr. Jennie Trout became the first woman in Canada to be licensed to practise medicine. 146 years later, we are celebrating the first-ever Canadian Women Physicians Day (March 11).

Established by Canadian Women in Medicine, a non-profit organization, Canadian Women Physicians Day is an opportunity to remember the trailblazing women who paved the way and to celebrate the women in medicine who continue to achieve, inspire and advocate.

Five physician leaders at the School share their inspirations, personal experiences and hopes for the future of the profession.

Dr. Lois Champion
Associate Dean, Postgraduate Medical Education

“I hope that our medical profession continues to become more ‘human’. To openly acknowledge, talk about, and share the emotional and physical impact that long hours of work and patient care may have.  

"As a mother, grandmother and busy clinician, I can honestly say life, medicine and our clinical work and personal lives can be overwhelming at times. Please, take care, reach out, and ask for help if you need it. If we can’t look after ourselves, we won’t be able to provide care for our families and patients.”   

Dr. Lois Champion is the Associate Dean, Postgraduate Medical Education. An award-winning educator and mentor, she brings considerable experience in teaching, course design, learner assessment and academic administration.

She continues to be inspired by medical residents and fellows at the School. “Their continued resilience and hard work during our uncertain and challenging times inspires me to work with and alongside them, and to provide all the care, support and teaching that I can." 

Dr. Karishma Desai
PGY3, Internal Medicine

“I am inspired by those who have the courage to say, 'I don’t know.' The best leaders I know are transparent about their vulnerabilities. Throughout this pandemic, they have not been afraid to say, 'I really don’t know what to do, but I hear you. I am with you and we’ll get through it.' When our leaders are vulnerable, it removes the pressure we put on ourselves to be perfect and have all of the answers all of the time.”

Dr. Karishma Desai, MD’18, is a third-year resident in Internal Medicine. She serves as Western University’s Site Chair on the Professional Association of Residents of Ontario (PARO) General Council.

“I hope that the next generation of female physicians are able to recognize their fears, acknowledge they are afraid, and do what scares them anyway. Particularly, I hope they know that they are very well supported by the physicians that walked the same path before them.”

Dr. Bertha Garcia
Vice Dean and Director, Schulich Dentistry  

“Growing up, I was an avid reader of books and particularly biographies. The one that resonated with me the most was Madame Curie. Then, when I entered medicine, I was moved by the energy and passion some of my teachers and colleagues dedicated to advocating for equity seeking populations in our midst. But perhaps the person who has influenced my career as a leader the most is Dr. Carol Herbert, the former Dean of Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. Her leadership style, humility and generosity were an amazing model to follow and have been imprinted on my career.”

Dr. Bertha Garcia currently serves as the Vice Dean and Director at Schulich Dentistry. It’s one in a long line of leadership roles she has held at the School, including Vice Dean, Education and Chair/Chief, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. She is one of Canada’s most revered medical educators and clinician leaders, and unquestionably one of the School’s most beloved faculty members. Most importantly, she works tirelessly on behalf of students, colleagues, her patients and their families and the University. 

In celebrating Canadian Women Physician’s Day, she has an important message to her female colleagues. “Stand up. Be counted. Advocate for your colleagues and patients. Open doors for women physicians. Mentor them and be generous with your time in helping them to develop their careers and balance their personal lives.”

Dr. Tisha Joy
Associate Dean, Admissions

“To the future generation of female physicians – be your best based on values of respect, trust, accountability and adaptability. Use data, evidence and your words wisely; in an era of quick opinions, it is important to have a deliberate approach. The most productive conversations are by those who are most prepared. Be accountable to yourself and those around you; when everyone holds themselves to a higher standard and has a positive mindset no matter how large the task may seem, great things can be achieved.”

Dr. Tisha Joy is the Associate Dean, Admissions and a Professor in Endocrinology and Metabolism. She is passionate about medical education, having led several committees at the School involved with curriculum development and postgraduate training opportunities. As an endocrinologist, Dr. Joy conducts research in several areas including diabetes, metabolism, polycystic ovary syndrome and hyperthyroidism.

Dr. Joy says she has been inspired by the diversity of mentors and colleagues she has had the opportunity to work with in clinical and research environments. Surrounding herself with individuals who provide perspectives different from her own has influenced her approach as a leader and cemented the importance of leveraging the unique strengths of those around her to get things done.

Dr. Jane Thornton
Assistant Professor, Departments of Family Medicine and Epidemiology and Biostatistics

“My message for the next generation of female physicians is to form a strong guiding team of individuals who will support your journey. Allow for excellence in yourself and others. Connect and engage with your patients as they are our greatest teachers. Have fun – this profession is a privilege.” 

Dr. Jane Thornton is a sports medicine physician and Assistant Professor at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. She is also a former Olympic rower and dedicates her research and advocacy efforts to promoting physical activity as a prescription for better health and advancing female athletes’ health.  

One of her mentors, Dr. Connie Lebrun, was the team doctor for the National Rowing Team. Dr. Thornton says her amazing determination to excel at what seemed like an impossible balance of research, clinical medicine, and team-based care ignited her passion to pursue a career as a clinician-scientist.