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History of Obstetric Medicine

History of Obstetric Medicine in Toronto

Dr. Gerrard N. Burrow, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto, was a pioneer in the field of obstetric medicine and helped established interest in the field locally. He wrote the first textbook in the field, Medical Complications during Pregnancy, originally published in 1975. The textbook is currently on its 5th edition.

Dr. Jerry Shime, Staff Obstetrician & Gynecologist, Women’s College Hospital, had a major interest in the area with a major influence at Women’s College Hospital. He laid the foundation for the concept of a program in Obstetric Medicine at the University. He collaborated with Dr. Anne Kenshole, an endocrinologist at Women’s College Hospital, in integrating endocrinology within obstetrics. Dr. Anne Kenshole secured funding for the training of medical residents in obstetric medicine at Women’s College Hospital. This was the first official funding for trainees in obstetric medicine at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Carl Laskin helped to establishment the High Risk Pregnancy Unit at Mount Sinai Hospital as the PI of a multidisciplinary study in recurrent miscarriage. He collaborated with Drs. Knox Ritchie, Fred Mandel, Claire Bombardier, Mary Hanna and Vern Farewell in completing that eight-year study. In 1993, Dr. Laskin was appointed the first Director of the Obstetric Medicine Program in the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto.

While the foundation was being established in the Department of Medicine, the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology was moving forward very quickly with a growing program in perinatology. Dr. Mathew Sermer, Obstetrician & Gynecologist initially at Toronto General Hospital, helped to integrate a number of the medical specialties into the obstetric clinics. In 1988 he established the first high risk obstetrical clinics dedicated fully to medical disorders of pregnancy. The program moved to Mount Sinai Hospital in 2000 after restructuring, establishing itself as one of the largest programs of this kind in the world and attracting fellows from around the world.

In 2000, Drs. Shital Gandhi and Wee Shian Chan further developed the Obstetric Medicine fellowship training program. This program continued to be funded by Women’s College Hospital. Formal Obstetric Medicine rounds were established by Dr. Denice Feig at Mount Sinai Hospital.

In 2010, Dr. Michelle Hladunewich became the head of Obstetric Medicine at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and in 2011 Dr. Candice Silversides became head of Obstetric Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. With these developments, there has been a broader goal to coordinate the Obstetric Medicine programs throughout the University of Toronto into a city-wide program – the Toronto Obstetric Medicine Program.

Thus “the torch was passed” from those early years where medical problems in pregnancy was a recognized area requiring a multidisciplinary effort on the part of obstetricians and internists to the formalization of a program at the University of Toronto.