Longevity & Legacy Portraits 2015: The Beloved Physician

Dr. Marion Hilliard, 56




“I would never wish anyone a life of prosperity and security. These are bound to betray. I would wish instead for adventure, struggle, and challenge.”


This is one of those stories where the actual lifespan of the individual, fifty-six years, may not sound exceptional by today’s longevity expectations, but in many more ways, her life story contributed greatly to the health and longevity of others, and by extension, her longevity seems happily continuous. Her legacy is of direct influence to the practice of women’s health in the city of Toronto and of personal significance to our family. Dr. Marion Hilliard was my Mother’s obstetrician at Women’s College Hospital for the birth of my brother.

Like my brother, I was also born at that hospital and it still stands since the 1930’s in its current location, tucked away on Grenville Street in downtown Toronto. Women’s College Hospital is one strong testimony to Dr. Hilliard’s legacy, because among her other solid achievements, she was instrumental in the 1956 negotiations with the University of Toronto to have the hospital affiliated as a teaching hospital for obstetrics and gynecology.

As of this year 2015, phase two of a “revolutionized” hospital is positioning Women’s College as a “hospital of the future”. This means it will take an ambulatory approach to care; where as they state – “its surgeries, diagnostic procedures and treatments…do not require overnight hospitalization…patients can be released within 18 hours, and can recover in the comfort of their own home.”

My Mother had a life-long connection to the hospital as if it was a thankful symbol to her of perpetual life giving. And, my Mother had a deep respect for Dr. Hilliard. Once you read the good doctor‘s biography, you too will be impressed. In her time, one could say that she was if not revolutionary, certainly visionary and pioneering, even if some of Hilliard’s 1950’s views on women and marriage sound out of step with outlooks of today.

In some mysterious way, at least in my dreamy way of thinking, I wonder that my Mother could have had a hand in writing the simple epitaph on Dr.Hilliard’s headstone in the cemetery of her hometown, Morrisburg, Ontario.

It simply says “Beloved Physician”.

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