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Past and present OMA women members.
Ontario Medical Review
March 01, 2022

Women Leaders Memory Project aims to preserve women’s contributions to health care

OMA seeks input to document women physicians’ greatest achievements, inspirations and challenges

The Ontario Medical Association is asking its women physician members to share stories of their achievements and experiences as part of its unique multi-year OMA Memory Project.

The new initiative, the OMA Women Leaders Memory Project, coincides with International Women’s Day on March 8, a day to commemorate the cultural, political and socioeconomic achievements of women. The OMA is inviting women physicians to share memories of their medical journeys, including high points, low points, contributions and challenges, as well as advice to those who may follow in their footsteps. 

More than 21,000 Ontario doctors are women or about 43 per cent of the physician workforce. Some female trailblazers are well-known, including Dr. Emily Stowe, the first woman in Canada to establish a medical practice and the first known female member of the OMA, and Dr. Bette Stephenson, who was the first woman president of the OMA and later became a cabinet minister in two Ontario Progressive Conservative governments.

Other pioneering female doctors made major contributions to the profession but aren’t as well-known. These include Dr. Miriam Rossi, who established the Black Health Alliance and the Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario; and Dr. Joan Bain, the first woman president of the Canadian College of Physicians.

“Women physicians have been consistently on the forefront of improving health care for Ontarians,” said Dr. Rose Zacharias, OMA president-elect. “As a female medical student myself, graduating McMaster medicine class of 1999, I have benefited immensely from the strength, positivity, dedication and integrity of many women physicians.”

The Women Leaders Memory Project is the second phase of the OMA Memory Project, which was created in 2020 to record, capture and archive the memories, reflections and contributions of OMA members to better document and understand the past, present and future. Phase 1 of the project took place in 2021 and captured the memories of members who had been involved with OMA Council.

The next projects, starting in 2022 and beyond, will focus on other individual groups, including Black, Indigenous and rural physicians.

The OMA has never undertaken a project like this, in its 142-year history, nor has any other organization collected the memories of Ontario physicians. All the material collected — whether textual, visual or audio memories — will be permanently housed in the OMA Archives, and will be added to the OMA Memory Bank, which is currently under development. Their contributions and stories will also be showcased through the OMA website, other OMA platforms and publications and through members themselves.

Women physicians who participate will be asked to describe their greatest achievements, inspirations and challenges, and share advice and wisdom for the next generation of female doctors. They can submit photos and videos as well as written memories.

To participate in the Women Leaders Memory Project, visit the OMA Memory Project web page or email info@oma.org.