News at Medicine - November 2019 - Admiration for a trail blazer

Admiration for a trail blazer
November 5, 2019
Second year doctor of medicine (MD) student Maggie O’Dea admires how Dr. Elizabeth Bagshaw “led by example, stood with conviction and practiced with compassion.”
Dr. Bagshaw was the founder of Canada’s first abortion clinic and founder of the Canadian Federation of Medical Women. In 1976, at the age of 95 and still with a practice of 50 patients, Dr. Bagshaw decided it was time to retire. She was the oldest practicing physician in Canada.

Drawing inspiration

Ms. O’Dea is Memorial University’s latest Canadian Medical Hall of Fame (CMHF) recipient. Recipients of the award have to submit a 1,000 word essay describing why they should be considered for the award and which CMHF Laureate inspires them most.
Ms. O’Dea choose to write about 2007 Laureate Dr. Bagshaw who pursued a career in medicine at a time when women were not accepted in the field and entered Toronto Women’s Medical College in 1901 just 18 years after it opened.
“She persevered in a time when women were not accepted in the medical field,” Ms. O’Dea said. “She pioneered patient-centered care of marginalized populations, ignoring social, professional and legal norms to care for her patients. She trail blazed the recognition of reproductive choice as a fundamental right.”
“Her uncompromising stance on respect for bodily autonomy at a time when doing so was socially and professionally contentious (as well as illegal), is nothing short of courageous.”

Advocating for vulnerable populations
That inspiration has led Ms. O’Dea to become a leader in advocacy herself in campaigns that have resulted in transformed government policies and improved health care for vulnerable populations.
Last year, the Witless Bay native co-designed a campaign against inequitable access to abortion, which resulted in universal access to Mifegymiso. This year, Ms. O’Dea led a team to eliminate discriminatory age restrictions on the Insulin Pump Program. Both campaigns generated national media coverage and incited similar campaigns across Canada.
Ms. O’Dea completed a bachelor of science (honours)) in life sciences at Queen’s University and a masters in business administration at Memorial as a Fellow of the School of Graduate Studies, where she learned to analyze physiological boundaries of health using political-social-economic frameworks.
Since starting medical school she has chaired professional working groups on physician engagement/retention and participating in national stakeholder sessions on Pharmacare.
The Class of 2021 student said applying for the CMHF award required a lot of introspection. “I kept reflecting on how fortunate I have been to have had such incredible colleagues and mentors who have challenged me and inspired me. In some ways, I think I am merely a reflection of all these different people in my life. And when I found out about the award, all I wanted to do was reach out to these people to thank them and tell them how much they have meant to me.”
Ms. O’Dea is only on her second rotation in clerkship, so she’s keeping an open mind when it comes to what she’ll specialize in. “I will say that upholding, supporting and enabling autonomy over one’s health, and optimizing safety and comfort in accessing that health, is to me one of the most meaningful avenues in medicine. No matter what I do, I know that I will continue to work to enable, optimize and protect that right.”
The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame partners with donors, MD Financial Management and Canada's medical schools to recognize young leaders who exemplify qualities of CMHF Laureates: perseverance, collaboration and an entrepreneurial spirit. Second year medical students with an established track record of community leadership, superior communication skills and demonstrated interest in advancing knowledge are eligible for the CMHF Award. Each recipient receives a cash prize of $5,000 and a travel subsidy to attend the 2020 Canadian Medical Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Vancouver where they will have the opportunity to meet CMHF Laureates and interact with health leaders from across the country.