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Wellesley’s first female doctor among hall of fame inductees

The first woman to practice medicine in Wellesley Township will have her name enshrined in the Waterloo Region Hall of Fame.

Deborah Glaister-Hannay, who died in 1986, will be one of eight inductees named for 2010 at a special ceremony May 16.

Deborah Glaister -Hannay named to hall of fame.
Deborah Glaister -Hannay named to hall of fame.

Born in the township in 1906, Deborah Glaister followed in her father’s footsteps, choosing to become a doctor rather than a nurse, the traditional role for women at that time.

Glaister graduated from the University of Toronto medical school in 1932 and did post-graduate work in England. In 1936 she returned to Wellesley to assist her ailing father with his medical practice. For several years, she took on a busy rural caseload, serving as Wellesley Township’s first female physician.

“Her father probably influenced her to go into the medical practice,” said Julie Schnurr, a Linwood resident who serves as Wellesley Township’s representative on the hall’s selection committee. “People really loved her – they called her Dr. Debbie – and really respected her as a doctor.”

Following her stint in Wellesley, in 1943 the recently married Glaister-Hannay joined the Canadian Women’s Army Corp, attaining the rank of captain. After the war Glaister-Hannay had a full medical practice as Kitchener’s first female specialist. She later joined Freeport Hospital, eventually becoming the hospital’s chief of staff.

“She was eager to serve in World War Two. She really wanted to do something for her country,” said Schnurr, noting that it wasn’t until the government relaxed the rules for women’s participation in the war effort that she got her chance.

Having researched Glaister-Hannay’s accomplishments, Schnurr put the Wellesley native’s name forward for consideration.

“I think having her inducted into the hall of fame is appropriate, given her achievements.”

Along with naming a road Deborah Glaister Line in her honour in 1999, Wellesley also features some of the papers and items related to her practice, as well as her father’s time as the doctor in Wellesley, in the collection held by the township’s historical society.

The Waterloo Region Hall of Fame will hold its annual induction ceremony at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Kitchener on May 16 at 2 p.m. Schnurr will be giving a short introduction about Glaister-Hannay. The other inductees are Raffi Armenian (symphony conductor), James Barrie (community service); Derrick Campbell (speed skating); Doug Consiglio (track and field); Eugene George (sports builder), Robbyn Hermitage (badminton) and the Waterloo Siskins Hockey Club (ice hockey).

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