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Dr Vera Peters to be inducted into Canadian Medical Hall of Fame


Toronto, ON – Medical pioneer Dr Vera Peters will be inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2010. Dr Peters, who started her career at Toronto General Hospital in the 1940s and worked at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) until her retirement, is internationally acclaimed as a clinician who changed the management of Hodgkin’s disease and breast cancer.

Dr Mary Gospodarowicz, medical director, PMH Cancer Program, says that patient-centred care today at UHN builds on the profound legacy of Dr Peters. “I am one of the many extremely lucky physicians who worked with and was inspired by Dr Vera Peters, who was always a remarkable role model,” says Dr. Gospodarowicz. “She was an outstanding clinician known for compassion and dedication to patients, and a pioneer of patient engagement rather than the paternalistic approach.”

Dr Peters (1911-1993) is renowned for her 1950 seminal discovery that Hodgkin’s disease could be cured with radiation. Her approach of treatment tailored to the individual disease characteristics and minimizing treatment exposure became known as “the Toronto approach”. It took 30 years to win over the skeptics and go to the tailored treatment approach. She was an early advocate of breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy) followed by radiation, which is as effective as radical mastectomy, in an era where disfiguring radical mastectomy prevailed.

She was born on a dairy farm near Toronto, and graduated in medicine from the University of Toronto in 1934. She married and had two children, and successfully balanced her professional and personal worlds in the day when women were not universally accepted as scientists. Along the way, she was a remarkable role model who inspired and continues to inspire countless physicians.

She was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 1975 and an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1977. She received the Medal of the Centre Antine Belere in Paris, France and was awarded the first RM Taylor Award in 1979. Also that year, she was the recipient of the Gold Medal from the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology — the highest honour in the radiation oncology profession.