A Montreal doctor whose contributions to women’s health has paved the way to the early detection of certain cancers is being recognized as one of Canada’s Top 25 Women of Influence for 2021.
The award celebrates diverse Canadian women who, over the last year, have contributed to the greater good of society through various initiatives.
Dr. Lucy Gilbert is the director of gynecologic oncology and the Women’s Health Research Unit at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC).
Her groundbreaking work has led to advances in the early detection of endometrial and ovarian cancers — which is key to saving lives, according to Gilbert.
“If it’s detected while it’s confined to the organ (where) it started, relatively simple surgery can cure it,” she said.
“The moment it spreads outside the organ it started in, you need chemotherapy, the surgery has to be brutal, you need radiation. So this is what we’re working on, picking up, diagnosing this cancer while it’s confined to the uterus and the ovaries.”
Being named a woman of influence is something Gilbert is grateful for.
“It means a lot because it means that women are being acknowledged,” she said.
Gilbert credits her father for his unwavering support in encouraging her and her six sisters, all of whom are physicians, to reach their full potential.
“I come from a culture, an Indian culture, where women, really, you raised them and you got them married off to be very good housewives,” she said.
“But my father believed that his daughters were as good as anybody else and that we shouldn’t allow the fact that we were women to stand in our way.”
Gilbert shares that belief and acknowledges it comes with a certain responsibility.
“We as women have this obligation to other women to show them that, you know, the world is the limit.”
The award is equally meaningful to Gilbert for the attention it shines on her work.
“It also means that what I’m doing, which is early detection of the fourth highest killer of Canadian women, is being recognized.”
Gilbert and her team have developed the DOvEEgene screening test which will be undergoing its final clinical trial this spring.
The goal is for the test to help detect over 70 per cent of early ovarian cancers before symptoms occur. It is hoped the diagnostic tool will become widely available to family doctors and gynecologists and will become a routine part of women’s health care.
The MUHC foundation said it is celebrating Gilbert being named to the Top Women of Influence and will continue to support her ongoing work through its Dream Big fundraising campaign.
From activists, to artists to politicians and scientists, Gilbert is in good company on this year’s list of Top 25 Women of Influence.
Among this year’s top 25, is Annamie Paul who became the first Black woman and first Jewish woman to lead a Canadian political party when she was elected the leader of the Green Party in Oct. 2020.
Soccer great Christine Sinclair also made the cut after becoming the top international goal scorer of all time for both men and women.
A virtual ceremony honouring all 25 recipients will be held on March 10.