In 1959, St. Paul’s Director of Research, Dr. Harold Rice, designed and built Canada’s first heart-lung bypass machine, giving St. Paul’s the ability to perform open-heart surgery. The first procedure was performed the following year, a life-saving operation on a 12-year-old girl to repair a hole in her heart.
For British Columbians, a new era in health care was ushered in that day. A member of the surgical team for that historic procedure was a young woman who had just been hired by St. Paul’s earlier that year. She was St. Paul’s first female cardiologist and just the second female physician to be hired by St. Paul’s.
That young woman was Dr. Doris Kavanagh-Gray.
Fast forward seven years to 1967, and Dr. Kavanagh-Gray was appointed as St. Paul’s first Division Head of Cardiology, a position she would hold until 1990. Her 23 years of inspired leadership are seen as having created the path for St. Paul’s to become home to the provincial Heart Centre in 1994.
Ahead of her time in what was a male dominated field, Dr. Kavanagh-Gray, as they say, got it done. She transformed the Division of Cardiology. When she began her career at St. Paul’s, there had been one cardiologist on staff. By the time she retired in 1990, there were 11 cardiologists at St. Paul’s.
Today, 30 cardiologists call St. Paul’s home and the provincial Heart Centre has evolved into a world leader in the treatment and prevention of heart disease. While her own achievements were considerable, in a 2012 newspaper interview Dr. Kavanagh-Gray was quick to praise her peers—and St. Paul’s itself. “I always thought St. Paul’s had something special to offer. Nobody was ever turned away and the doctors were very supportive. It was a great place to work.”
February is Heart Month, a great occasion to make a gift in support of the cardiac care that is at the heart of St. Paul’s. Donate now.