National Physicians’ Day in Canada Date in the current year: May 1, 2024

National Physicians’ Day in Canada National Physicians’ Day (Journée nationale des médecins) is celebrated in Canada on May 1 every year. It is observed to recognize the extraordinary people who dedicate their lives to medicine and work tirelessly to care for others and help them stay healthy.

Physicians play an integral role in Canadian healthcare system. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, there were over 96,020 physicians in the country as of 2022, or 247 physicians per 100,000 population. 92% of practicing physicians were concentrated in urban areas, and 8% were located in rural areas. The proportion of male and female physicians was equal in family medicine, while the percentage of male doctors among medical specialists and surgical specialists was higher: 58% and 66%, respectively. About 27% of Canadian physicians received international training.

National Physicians’ Day was created by the Canadian Medical Association (Association médicale canadienne), a national movement of physicians, residents and medical students that advocates for a more sustainable, accessible health system and a new culture of medicine that champions equity, diversity and inclusion. May 1 was designated as the date of the holiday to commemorate the birthday of Emily Stowe, the first female physician to practice in Canada and the second licensed female physician in the country.

Emily Stowe was born Emily Jennings on May 1, 1831. She and her sisters wer raised in a community where women were encouraged to get an education. At age 15, Emily became a teacher and taught at a local school for seven years. In 1853, she entered the Normal School for Upper Canada (a teachers college in Toronto), graduated with first-class honors the next year, and became the first female principal of a public school in Upper Canada.

In 1856, she married John Stowe and had to leave her job. When her husband was diagnosed with tuberculosis, Stowe was inspired to become a doctor. Since none of the medical schools in Canada would admit her, Stowe went to the United States and got her degree from the New York Medical College and Hospital for Women in 1867. Upon her return to Canada, Stowe opened a homeopathic medicine practice in Toronto, focused on the treatment of women and children, and started to give public lectures on women’s health.

In 1880, Stowe was granted a license to practice medicine by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, becoming the second female licensed physician in Canada after Jennie Kidd Trout. Stowe was instrumental in the founding of the Canadian Women’s Suffrage Association and the establishment of the Ontario Medical College for Women. She was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2018.

In March 2018, a bill to designate May 1 as National Physicians’ Day at the federal level was introduced in the Parliament. However, it had not been passed before the 2019 Canadian federal election and was therefore removed from the agenda. Of course, a lack of federal recognition does not prevent the medical community from celebrating their professional holiday.

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National Physicians’ Day in Canada, holidays in Canada, professional observances, physicians in Canada, Emily Stowe