Dr. Sophie Jamal first discovered the benefits of the compound nitrate in preventing bone loss during her research years at the University of California in the early 1990s.
“Women who took nitrate had higher bone densities and less bone breakdown,” she said.
Jamal went on to complete her PhD at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. Her studies focused on the effect of nitrates on women’s bone health.
Today, she is a doctor and researcher at Women’s College and works in the hospital’s osteoporosis department. Jamal believes it’s important to have a gender specific hospital in the city because some diseases disproportionately affect women. Osteoporosis, for example, is a disease that affects more women than men, Jamal said.
“The hospital recognizes the difference in gender, but more importantly that women and men are different,” she said. “We need to consider that they’re different and have different health issues.”
This year the hospital celebrates its 100th anniversary. The facility, located at 76 Grenville St. in downtown Toronto, has played a significant role in advancing the rights of Canadian women in the field of medicine.
Dr. Jamal continues in the footsteps of the hospital’s predecessors. Nearly a century ago opportunities for women to study and practise medicine in Canada were extremely limited. In 1883, Emily Stowe, who was the first woman licensed to practise medicine in Canada, changed the course of history. Stowe, along with her supporters, convinced the mayor of Toronto to open the first medical college for women in the city. In 1913 it was transformed into a hospital.
Since it opened, the hospital has produced many female researchers and medical doctors.
Dr. Jessie Gray, for example, was one of North America’s leading cancer surgeons and helped to create Canada’s first clinic in detecting cancer.
Another notable pioneer was Dr. Marion Powell. She was often called the ”Mother of Birth Control in Canada.“ She opened the first publicly funded birth control clinic in Canada.
The hospital also helped to develop the Pap test for detecting the early signs of cancer.
In Ontario, the hospital was the first to use mammograms in detecting early breast cancer in women.
Despite the great advancements in women’s health, Jamal said that women continue to face challenges in the medical workplace, including balancing work and family.
“There are lots of stresses on younger women to start careers and families, but the hospital is very supportive,” she said.