The Give | National Physicians Day in Canada

National Physicians Day in Canada


Did you know? National Physicians Day in Canada has an even more significant meaning. The date May 1st is Canadian Medical Hall of Fame honouree, Dr. Emily Stowe's birthday. Stowe is considered the first female physician to publicly practice in Canada and her story is a lesson in resilience.

Born in Norwich Township, Ontario, Stowe’s passion was learning. She graduated from the Normal School for Upper Canada (Toronto), the only advanced school in Canada that accepted women in 1854, with first-class honours.

She worked as a teacher and eventually as the first female principal of a public school in Ontario, before pursuing her interest in medicine.

Originally, Stowe had wanted to study medicine at the University of Toronto. In 1865 she applied but was denied. At that time, women were not allowed entry to medical schools in Canada. She eventually left Canada to study at the New York Medical College for Women.

Stowe earned her medical degree in 1867 and returned to open a practice on Richmond Street in Toronto. Just when the medical profession in Canada began requiring doctors trained in the United States to take additional courses and an examination to obtain their medical licences.

Stowe applied for the courses at the University of Toronto and was denied again. By 1871, Stowe would finally study at the Toronto School of Medicine. She and fellow female physician Jennie Trout would become the first two women to attend classes there.

Interestingly, there is no record to show that Stowe wrote the licensing exam required by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. She continued to practice medicine without a medical licence for over a decade. Her colleague Dr. Trout, would become the first woman licensed to practice medicine in Canada.

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