Born:

July 31, 1924

(Aurora, Ontario)

Died:

August 19, 2019

Education:

MD, University of Toronto (1946)

Awards & Honours:

2009: Honorary LLD, University of Toronto

2002: Premier’s Award for Education in Colleges

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Picture of Bette Stephenson

Placed the practice of family medicine on the international medical map and inspired countless women to pursue careers in medicine

Portrait of Bette Stephenson

A trailblazer for women in medicine and political life

After medical school, Dr. Stephenson and her husband opened a busy general practice that lasted for more than 40 years. Spurred on by the lack of medical professionals entering the field of family medicine, Dr. Stephenson helped create the College of Family Physicians in Canada which promoted the importance of family doctors. She joined the medical staff at Women’s College Hospital and eventually became Chief of the Department of General Practice. With a keen interest in political affairs, Dr. Stephenson became the first woman to serve on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Medical Association and the Ontario Medical Association. Subsequently, she became the first female president of both associations. In 1975, she was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and was the first female to hold various distinguished offices.

Key Facts

Graduated medical school in 1945
as one of only ten girls
in a medical class of 142

Established the first
Department of Family Medicine
at Women’s College Hospital

Chaired the first and second
National Conference on
Education and General Practice

Was the first female Minister of Labour, Education, and Finance
as well as Ontario’s
first female Deputy Premier

Facilitated the passage of Bill 82, the Special Education Act, to assist the needs of vulnerable children

Appointed Chair of the Ontario Innovation Trust, which provided over a billion dollars in research funding to Ontario institutions

Professional timeline

Impact on lives today

Dr. Bette Stephenson’s legacy of leadership crosses many sectors from the field of family medicine to the to the well-being of children to status of women. In founding the College of Family Physicians, Dr. Stephenson gave family medicine a new level of stature, which helped to draw the interest of medical students who had increasingly been drawn into other sub-specialties. Then, as a politician, her efforts improved policy-makers’ understanding of the importance of the family physician to the health care system as well as to the special needs of vulnerable children. Finally, as a trailblazer in fields that had once been the sole domain of men, her life remains a model to the women who have followed her. Bette Stephenson’s legacy reminds them that their voices have a place in every aspect of medicine and society.

Picture of Bette Stephenson

2013

  • Image of Dr. Bette Stephenson

    Bette Stephenson inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

    Halifax, Nova Scotia

  • To honour Dr. Stephenson’s contribution to education in Ontario, Ontario’s Education Quality and Accountability Office established the Dr. Bette M. Stephenson Recognition of Achievement Award

  • Dr. Stephenson became the first Canadian recipient of a Citation for Outstanding Public Service from the Council for Exceptional Children

  • Dr. Bette M. Stephenson, MPP from 1975-87

    Dr. Stephenson was first elected to the Ontario Legislature

    Over a period of 12 years in office, she held many important leadership roles, often as the first woman in the position.

  • Dr. Stephenson was elected President of the Canadian Medical Association, the first woman to hold the position in its 106-year history

    Women in Medicine

  • Dr. Stephenson was a member of the first medical delegation invited to the People’s Republic of China

  • Never far away from nurturing patient wellbeing, Dr. Stephenson was the principal host of CBC Public Service T.V.’s “The First Five Years" from 1971-1973

    This weekly programme discussed child health and development.

  • Dr. Bette Stephenson was elected President of the Ontario Medical Association, the first woman to hold the position in its 90-year history

    Women in Medicine

  • Dr. Bette Stephenson became a founding member of the College of General Practice Canada (now the College of Family Physicians Canada)

    Leadership in Organizational Development

1954

She was driven with self-determination.