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FROM THE Heritage Minutes COLLECTION
A part of our heritage...
Humanitarian and visionary Lucille Teasdale was one of Canada's first female surgeons. She went to Gulu, Uganda to practice medicine and to help those in need. By the time of her death in 1996, she received numerous international honours including the Order of Québec and the Order of Canada. Lucille Teasdale's extraordinary selflessness and humanitarian determination make her one of Canada's most remarkable women.
Lucille Teasdale was born in the East End of Montréal in 1929. She grew up in a working class, Roman Catholic community. She was interested in medicine and was determined to get into medical school.
She graduated from the University of Montréal medical school at age 26, and interned at St. Justine-Hospital. While there she met Piero Corti, her future husband. She really wanted to become a surgeon, but neither Canada nor the United States would admit her because she was a woman. In 1960, she was accepted by two hospitals in France to specialize in pediatric surgery.
Later, Piero Corti convinced her to help him set up a hospital in Gulu, Uganda. They arrived there in 1961 and began their work at St Mary's-Lacor Hospital. They transformed a desolate, 40-bed building into a 500-bed hospital treating over 150,000 patients annually.
She personally treated over 13,000 patients throughout her career at St Mary's-Lacor Hospital. She continued practicing medicine throughout Uganda's turbulent dictatorships, civil war, and AIDS epidemic. Lucille operated on hundreds of soldiers during the civil war.
She contracted HIV in 1985 while operating on a soldier and was told that she had only two years left to live. Unconvinced, she was more determined than ever and continued performing surgery until 1993. While she was concerned about transmitting the disease during operations, "...in the end, we decided that the risk was very low. And I was the only surgeon able to conduct the operations so if I didn't do it, the patient would die."
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