Gillian Hawker 1978

Gillian HawkerIt comes as no surprise to the Class of 1978 that the 2014 recipient of the Old Girls Life Achievement Award is one of their own. From her first day at Havergal College, Gillian Hawker embraced the challenge to “develop [her] full potential.” Today, she is a dedicated physician, stalwart researcher and respected academic whose natural leadership ability is well matched by her sense of humanity, generosity of spirit and willingness to give of herself to those around her.

Gillian was the ideal Havergalian; while her strength was academics, she loved her cello and excelled in field hockey. She laughed until she cried and her school spirit was infectious. She was duly rewarded in Grade 13, when she was named Senior Student and Head of Frances Ridley House. Always voicing encouragement, Gillian’s parting words were “when you smile, you’re alive!”

Following Havergal, Gillian attended McMaster University and the University of Toronto. She graduated in 1984 with honours from Toronto’s faculty of medicine. She completed training in rheumatology, then earned a master’s degree in clinical epidemiology. During these five years of specialty training, Gillian gave birth to her three children.

Throughout her career, Gillian has demonstrated a strong commitment and passion to improving the lives of people with arthritis. As a clinician and scientist, she has focused on women’s health in the areas of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.

Gillian has investigated gender disparity in the utilization of total knee replacements and demonstrated gaps in arthritis surgery based on gender and socio-economic status. This led her to work on decision support tools for patients and physicians in order to address these inequities. In addition to reducing the burden of illness, Gillian’s research interests include improving the use of health resources such as reducing emergency department visits and readmission rates to hospital.

Gillian collaborates with scientists both across Canada and internationally, and is frequently called upon as a keynote speaker and educator. Under her leadership, an American College of Rheumatology committee developed new classification criteria for the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, a standard now accepted worldwide.

Those who know her as a mentor praise Gillian’s compassion, truthfulness, insight and positive attitude. In the words of a colleague, Gillian “demands the very best and is wonderful to work with” as she “always gives 100 per cent to any team, even though she is juggling a number of competing interests.” She is “an excellent role model for young women who aspire to careers in clinical research.”

Currently, Gillian is Women’s College Hospital’s physician-in-chief and the FM Hill Chair in Academic Women’s Medicine. She is the incoming Sir John and Lady Eaton chair of medicine at the University of Toronto and holds appointments with both the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation and the Hospital for Sick Children. Recognition of her work has resulted in accolades too numerous to list.

Gillian is equally devoted to family and friends. She and her husband Marty have instilled in their three children an importance of family, a love of travel and the desire to seek their true calling in life.

Not one to seek attention, Gillian’s renown stems from her accomplishments coupled with her sincerity and caring. Her love for, and commitment to, Havergal is not only as an Old Girl, but also as the daughter of an Old Girl, mother of an Old Girl, best friend of many Old Girls and a past member of the board. She is a shining example to legions of women, both young and old.

Written by Brenda Morrow Barry 1978, Rebecca Perlmutar 2008 and Marty Perlmutar