Dr. Gladys Boyd: a pioneer in childhood diabetes care

2018-11-14 5:29:58 PM

Dr. Gladys Boyd: a pioneer in childhood diabetes care
By Heather Gardiner
This Diabetes Awareness Month, as we highlight our achievements in diabetic prevention, care and research, we acknowledge one of WCH’s pioneers who holds a special place in the history of the treatment of diabetes in Canada.

Gladys Lillian Boyd graduated in 1918 from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine – one of only four female graduates in a class of almost one hundred. In 1920, she earned a fellowship in pediatrics at the Hospital for Sick Children (HSC) and a year later, she was appointed as head of its Endocrine Services. It was here that she began her pioneering research in the areas of childhood diabetes, nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys) and tuberculosis.

Greatly influenced by the work of Dr. Frederick Banting, Dr. Boyd began treating diabetic children in the HSC wards with insulin as early as 1922. The following year, Dr. Banting joined the department and worked alongside Dr. Boyd. Their collaboration resulted in an estimated fifty percent decrease in childhood mortality from diabetes over a ten-year period at the hospital.

While continuing her research, Dr. Boyd joined the staff of Women’s College Hospital (WCH) as its chief of paediatrics in 1922.  As WCH’s sole pediatrician, she attended to an average of two hundred children annually in the hospital’s outpatient department – diagnosing everything from common illnesses to complex childhood diseases. 

However, it was her clinical research that gained Dr. Boyd a reputation as an early international authority in the area of diseases in children. As one of the first physicians in Canada to treat diabetic children with insulin, she was invited to speak about her research at the first annual scientific meeting of the Canadian Pediatric Society in June 1923. Dr. Boyd went on to author the “Manual for Diabetics” in 1925, which became the standard consumer health manual for those with diabetes at the time. Over the next three decades, she published numerous academic papers on childhood diabetes and nephritis – her lifelong passions. Dr. Gladys Boyd’s pioneering diabetes research greatly contributed to how children with diabetes are treated and care for today.
To learn more about the history of WCH, please contact The Miss Margaret Robins Archives of Women’s College Hospital.