Celebrating Women's Impact - Dr. Jessie Gray

2019-10-01 3:16:56 PM

For over 100 years Women’s College Hospital has been a leader and innovator in women’s health, a tradition established and maintained by its founders and strong medical leaders. Dr. Jessie Gray exemplifies this tradition through her distinguished medical career which is comprised of an extensive list of “firsts” for women in the field of general surgery.
Remembered fondly as Canada's "First Lady of Surgery," Dr. Jessie Gray joined the surgical staff of Women's College Hospital in July 1941. Five years later, in 1946, she was appointed surgeon-in-chief at the Hospital in 1946. She would hold this position until her retirement in 1964.
At Women's College Hospital, Dr. Gray helped to develop Canada's first cancer detection clinic. At the time, she was considered to be one of the top four cancer surgeons in North America. Under her strong leadership, the Department of Surgery at Women’s College Hospital, comprised of an all-female medical staff, grew in size and in profile. The number of surgeries performed annually by the department dramatically increased as well. In addition, Dr. Gray was a strong supporter of Ontario’s first Cancer Detection Clinic for “well women” at Women’s College Hospital and volunteered her services as its surgical consultant. She was also very active in the process for the hospital to achieve its long time goal of becoming a fully affiliated teaching hospital with the University of Toronto.
Dr. Jessie Gray once stated that “a group of determined women is a force to be reckoned with.” As Canada’s “First Lady of Surgery” and the first woman to earn a Master of Surgery degree in Canada (1939), Dr. Gray was certainly a force to be reckoned with!
Dr. Jessie Gray died in 1978. In her memory, her colleagues, patients and friends set up the Jessie Gray Memorial Fund which helped establish the Jessie Gray Colorectal Unit, a unit at Women's College Hospital for the early detection of cancer of the colon and rectum.
Although Dr. Gray felt that “surgery [was] probably one of the hardest fields for women to invade” due to a prejudice against female surgeons in the medical community and from the general public, her distinguished medical career as a surgeon continues to serve as an inspiration to medical women. 
Dr. Grey’s accomplishments as a surgeon have helped to break down barriers for women in the field of general surgery and in medicine, and she continues to serve as an inspiration to medical women and to women in general.
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