March 7, 1931

(Montreal, Québec )


MD, University of Toronto (1955)

Awards & Honours:

2017: Officer of the Order of Canada

2008: College of Family Physicians of Canada Lifetime Achievement Award in Family Medicine Research

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Photo of May Cohen MD

Pioneered positive change in the treatment of women’s health

Portrait of May Cohen MD

Trailblazer in women’s health and gender issues pioneer

May Cohen graduated at the top of her class in 1955 at a time when fewer than ten percent of medical students in Canada were women. Upon graduation, she worked as a family physician in Toronto before joining the department of family medicine at McMaster University. At McMaster, Dr. Cohen focused her energy to improve the well-being of women patients and physicians. In 1991, she co-founded the first faculty of medicine’s Women’s Health Office, which later led to the creation of the Women’s Health Inter School Curriculum Committee for Ontario’s medical schools. Securing institutional recognition of women’s health issues has transformed the educational experience of all health students and has enhanced the status of women throughout Ontario and Canada.

Key Facts

She is one of two Canadians to be named one of the most caring physicians in the world by the World Medical Association in 2005

Her writing has covered a wide range of topics related to women’s health including breast cancer, menopause, domestic abuse, sexual counselling, reproductive choice and career choices among women doctors

To acknowledge her impact on women’s health, numerous awards and distinctions bear her name

Professional timeline

Impact on lives today

Dr. Cohen’s long career has been instrumental in advancing enlightened treatment for women in areas ranging from breast cancer to spousal abuse. If today we take these achievements almost for granted, we can do so because of the efforts of courageous pioneers like May Cohen who overcame great obstacles and opened medical practice to a deeper appreciation of women’s needs.

Image Credit


  • May Cohen - The Gender Lady

    A documentary “The Gender Lady - The Fabulous Dr. May Cohen” was premiered at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival in May

  • Photo of May Cohen at Induction

    May Cohen inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

    Hamilton, Ontario

  • May Cohen authored “The Training Manual For Gender Mainstreaming in Health” for the Medical Women’s International Association

    Patient Care

  • Inaugural May Cohen Lecture in Women’s Health was delivered by the Hon. Monique Begin at McMaster University

    The Early Days - Health Care Pioneers

    Since then, other distinctions that have honoured Dr. Cohen include: "Eli Lilly May Cohen Chair in Women’s Health" at McMaster; the CMA's "May Cohen Award for Women Mentors"; and the "AFMC - May Cohen Equity, Diversity, and Gender Award".

  • Health Sciences Archives, McMaster University 325 x 230

    May Cohen co-founded the Women's Health Office at McMaster University, the first of its kind in Canada

    The Early Days - Health Care Pioneers

    This initiative inspired several other medical schools to follow suit.

  • Served as President of the Federation of Medical Women of Canada

  • May Cohen developed the "Gender as a Determinant of Health" presentation, which became an annual event

    Patient Care

  • Joined the Faculty of Medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton after more than two decades as a practicing family physician

  • May Cohen led a federal government workshop on women’s health care, as part of the Canadian government’s response to International Women’s Year

    The Early Days - Health Care Pioneers, Women in Medicine

  • Began her work as a family physician in Toronto after graduating at the top of her class from the University of Toronto


She really is a change maker.