Women’s College Hospital is a teaching hospital in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is located at the north end of Hospital Row, a section of University Avenue where several major hospitals are located. It currently functions as an independent ambulatory care hospital. The Chief of Staff is Dr. Sheila Laredo and the physician-in-chief is Dr. Gillian Hawker.
Women’s College Hospital maintains a focus on women’s health, research in women’s health, and ambulatory care. It was recognized as the only collaborating centre in women’s health the Western Hemisphere designated by the World Health Organization.
Women’s College Hospital began as Woman’s Medical College in 1883. On June 13, 1883, Dr. Emily Stowe (1831–1903) the first Canadian woman licensed to practice medicine in Canada – led a group of her supporters to a meeting at the Toronto Women’s Suffrage Club, stating “that medical education for women is a recognized necessity, and consequently facilities for such instruction should be provided.” The motion was seconded adding “that the establishment of such a school was a public necessity and in the interests of the community.”
Less than six months after this meeting, on October 1, 1883, Toronto Mayor A.R. Boswell formally opened Woman’s Medical College.
In 1895, the College amalgamated with its sister institution in Kingston, Ontario, and changed its name to the Ontario Medical College for Women. A practical experience clinic called the Dispensary was opened in Toronto in 1898. The clinic allowed female patients to obtain the services of women doctors in a field dominated by men. At the time, services were provided regardless of the patient’s ability to pay and medical advice was always free.
Women’s College Hospital moved to its current location in Toronto in 1935, and became a teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto in 1961. Later, the hospital merged with Sunnybrook Hospital and the Orthopedic and Arthritic Hospital in 1998 under the provisions of Ontario Bill 51, becoming Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre. In 2006, they de-amalgamated and Women’s College Hospital reverted to its original name. During the SARS outbreak of 2003, while still part of the erstwhile “Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre”, the Women’s College site housed the first ambulatory SARS clinic in Canada. Meanwhile the Sunnybrook site housed both the first in-patient SARS unit and Intensive Care Unit for SARS in Canada.
Women’s College Hospital collaborated in the invention of the simplified Pap test, opened Ontario’s first regional Sexual Assault Care Centre and was the first hospital in the province to use mammography as a diagnostic tool to detect breast cancer. As of 2012, it is Ontario’s first and only independent ambulatory care centre. Ambulatory care refers to surgeries, diagnostic procedures and treatments that do not require overnight hospitalization. That means patients can be released within 18 hours, and can recover at home.
Women’s College Hospital is a teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto. Research at the hospital, university and research institute are focused around sex and gender differences in physiology and social roles, which cause women to have different health-care needs than men.
The Women’s College Research Institute (WCRI) is the only one of its kind at a Canadian hospital devoted to women’s health. International researchers study breast cancer, musculoskeletal health, older women’s health and the impact of violence on women’s lives.