As part of my story on the new Canadian Honours exhibition at 90 Wellington, I spoke to one of the attendees, Dr. Elaine Jolly, the Founder of the Shirley E. Greenberg Women’s Health Centre, and recipient of the Order of Canada and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal. I couldn’t get much of my interview in the story, but I figured I’d put the whole thing here.
Q: Tell me about your story.
A: Well, I’m an obstetrician and gynaecologist, and presently I’m the medical director of the women’s health centre at the Ottawa Hospital. I was very honoured and privileged to receive the Order of Canada in 1999, and was notified in 1998. It was for the activities that I had undertaken for women’s health, and as an academic – because I’m a professor at the University of Ottawa – I have had extensive experience with education and public education, and education of students and residents, and our own continuing medical education for physicians. With regards to accomplishments, I must say that when I got the Order of Canada, I was very overwhelmed because I didn’t think that I was doing anything terribly special that many other academics had done, but having a focus on women’s health – and at that time, I was obviously nominated and supported for this – they deemed that that was a good thing. What it did do, however, was spur me on to really fulfil things that I would have liked to have done, and I think it probably helped, and that’s the development of the Shirley E. Greenberg Women’s Health Centre. In Ottawa, I formed a women’s health council, because having a women’s health centre fell on deaf ears in the Ottawa hospital system. Not because it’s not a good thing, but because there were many other priorities, and women’s health is not one of them. It’s really not a priority still for the provincial government. If you have cancer, and that’s important, and if you have orthopaedic things like hip replacements and cataract surgery that’s good, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but we still have to really work hard to get the issues related to women’s health and obstetrics and looking after women who are pregnant seems to be a little more appreciated, but looking after women and their health, promotion of health, prevention of disease, looking at the number one issue that women have mortality with is cardio-vascular disease, and how does it differ from men’s health, because it is different – women don’t have that sudden, horrible chest pain – they have atypical symptoms. So looking at that, and osteoporosis, and cancers that women have, the number one cancer killer believe it or not is not breast cancer but lung cancer, so smoking cessation is pretty important. Looking at diagnosis and early management of breast cancer is important, and looking at the global picture for women’s health, and as a gynaecologist, I look at problems with women’s reproduction. At the Women’s Health Centre, we have a multidisciplinary group, but mainly gynaecologists looking at those areas that fit in. We have 30 gynaecologists, we see 30,000 women a year, we opened in 2005 – Shirley Greenberg was instrumental in giving us a lot of money, which we also raised to not totally match, but we came close to it. And then the government was sort of pushed into supporting us, and the hospital was pushed into supporting us because the women’s voices were heard, and I have to tell you that the women here in Ottawa and in Eastern Ontario are responsible, along with Shirley for improving women’s health. Being a catalyst for that sort of thing, along with my daily duties, it was a good thing. My story is pretty simple, but I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished.