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Dr. Eva Mader Macdonald – Inspire Others

A black and white photo of women in lab-coats engaged in a variety of tasks. An older woman looks on as a younger woman works on a machine. Another woman appears to be washing up at a sink.

Dr. Eva Mader Macdonald working in the clinical laboratory at Women’s College Hospital.

Have you ever heard that only boys are good at math and science? This is a gender stereotype. It is a preconceived notion about a person’s abilities, characteristics, or behaviours based on their gender. It is also a reason why many young women do not further their education in STEM subjects.

How can more young women be inspired to study STEM? For Dr. Eva Mader Macdonald, the answer was encouragement and opportunity.

As a teenager, Eva Mader helped her father, a surgeon, treat victims of the 1917 Halifax Explosion. She then announced to her family that she wanted to become a doctor. They were very supportive and encouraged her to go after her dreams. She graduated from the Dalhousie University Medical School in 1927. She then received a Connaught Laboratories Fellowship at the University of Toronto (UofT). The scholarship enabled her to train in advanced laboratory sciences. At UofT, she was involved in pioneering research to develop a diphtheria vaccine for children.

A black and white photo of a young woman wearing a sari acessing a medical supply cupboard.

An international student intern training in the blood lab.

In 1929, Dr. Mader Macdonald joined the staff of Women’s College Hospital (WCH) as a bacteriologist. She was later promoted to the Director of Laboratories. She helped to establish a pathology fellowship for young women. As WCH’s superintendent explained “the fellowship will give opportunity to a young woman each year to further her studies in pathology – a field at present time so narrow that women in particular have difficulty in getting this training.”

Throughout her career, Dr. Mader Macdonald created many advanced training opportunities for female students. She was dedicated to breaking down barriers for women in medical sciences. In 1952, she stepped down from her position as the Director of Laboratories. Forty female lab technicians gathered in Toronto to celebrate her career. These women all completed fellowships in laboratory sciences at WCH and trained under Dr. Mader Macdonald.

Audio clip with transcript: Dr. Eva Mader Macdonald talks about creating opportunities for women in science.

A black and white photo of a row of women in lab-coats sitting a long table and looking through microscopes.

Student laboratory technicians training at Women’s College Hospital.