200 years! What a birthday for McGill University’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

In October, McGill University’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology celebrates its 200th anniversary, so we take the opportunity to remember the time and place, so long ago, from whence it all began… Here’s a brief history of the birth of the department.

1800-1825          Montreal, a budding metropolis

In the early 1800s, Montreal was on the verge of becoming a bustling metropolis. A dynamic merchant class involved in the import and export trade was replacing farmers and fur traders. In 1811, James McGill, a prominent fur trader, bequeathed his country estate and ten thousand pounds for the endowment of the university that would eventually bear his name. In 1821, a Royal Charter was granted and McGill College was given university powers. By that time, Montreal was a city of commerce, warehouses and garrisons. The population was growing at a promising rate – from 9,000 inhabitants around 1800 to 23,000 by 1825. Developments were underway of an entirely different nature: the Montreal General Hospital (MGH), which had been founded in 1819, moved into a specially constructed building in 1822. In 1823, four Edinburgh-trained physicians working at the Montreal General established the Montreal Medical Institution, a proprietary medical school that became the teaching arm of MGH.

1823-24              The Department of Mid­wifery and Diseases of Women is born

The Department of Mid­wifery and Diseases of Women was founded in 1823-24, in the Montreal Medical Institution. Students were taught by Professor William Robertson (1784-1844). In 1829, the Montreal Medical Institution was incorporated into McGill College as the Faculty of Medicine, and Dr. Robertson became its first Dean. Over the next 20 years, the Faculty of Medicine would be known as most dynamic faculty at McGill College.

1912      A merger of the most fruitful kind

In 1894, the Faculty of Medicine acquired the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) and a year later Dr. William Gardner (1895-1910) was appointed chief of Gynecology at the RVH.His successor, Dr. Walter W. Chipman (1910-1929), became the first Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at McGill in 1912. The merger of Obstetrics and Gynecology allowed obstetrical patients to receive the same benefits of medical and surgical patients. It also resulted in the building of The Women’s Pavilion of the Royal Victoria Hospital, which opened in 1926.

2023      Eight sites and a lot of babies!

Today, two centuries after its inception, McGill University’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology covers seven hospital sites in Montreal (Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal General Hospital, Jewish General Hospital, Saint Mary’s Hospital, Hôpital de LaSalle, Lakeshore General Hospital and the MUHC Reproductive Centre) and one in Gatineau. It boasts 137 department members and over 40 specialty and subspecialty residents in a given academic year. To put it in simpler terms, the total number of deliveries among all hospitals under McGill’s auspices equals over 16,000 annually. That is a lot of babies!


A selection of major achievements by McGill Chairs and Royal Victoria Hospital Chiefs of the department:

  • Dr. John R. Fraser : established the Canadian Gynaecological Society (CGS), Dean of the McGill Medical Faculty and a Life Governor of the University
  • Newell Philpott (2nd McGill Chair): President of American College of Surgeons and Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC)
  • Dr. Frederick Naftolin: started the first Canadian fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility and the Division of Reproductive Biology, in 1976
  • Dr. Robert Kinch established one of the first family planning clinics in Montreal in the early 1970s, where women could be counselled on important health matters
  • Dr. Brian Little: director of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and president of the Perinatal Research Society, the Society of Gynecologic Investigation and the American Gynecological Society
  • Dr. Seang Lin Tan: started McGill Reproductive Centre, in 1996
  • Dr. Togas Tulandi:
    • Editor in Chief, Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, 2017-present
    • Inducted to the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS), 2021 and recognized as one of the pioneers in Reproductive Surgery at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, 2021
    • Received Lifetime Achievement Award for Gynecologic Excellence from the Canadian Society for Advancement of Gynecologic Excellence, 2022
    • President of the Canadian Fertility and Andrology of Canada, the Society of Reproductive Surgeons, and Fellowship Board of the American Association for Gynecologic Laparoscopists


Members of the department also contributed to the evolution of Obstetrics and Gynecology, including:

  • Presidents of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC)
    • Dr. George B. Maughan
    • Dr. Morrie M. Gelfand
    • Dr. David R. Popkin
    • Dr. Gerald W. Stanimir
  • Dr. André Lalonde: executive vice-president of the SOGC
  • Dr. Morrie Gelfand: Order of Canada, 1989
  • Dr. Alice Benjamin: Order of Canada,, 2020
  • Dr. Lucy Gilbert: Top 25 Women of Influence Award, 2021



  1. Brief history of Medicine at McGill, By Richard L. Cruess, MD



  1. History of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, McGill University



  1. Montreal, By The Canadian Encylopedia