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Chief of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

By: Erica Scime

As an expert in women’s health and a leader in health care, Dr. Jennifer Blake knows first hand what it means to stand up for what is right and to work hard for the wellbeing of others.

Dr. Blake studied Biology at the University of Waterloo before going to McMaster University for medical school where she developed an interest in gynaecology and menopause – both of which she pursued after she graduated.

She is a former chief of Paediatric Gynaecology at the Hospital for Sick Children, and was the undergraduate dean of McMaster University Medical School from 1991 to 1997. Today, Dr. Blake is chief of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto where she holds seminars, along with her regular clinical work. She is also vice chair of the Genesis Research Foundation, chair of the Canadian Foundation for Women’s Health, as well as professor and associate chair of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Toronto. It goes without saying that Blake is not only an expert on women’s health, but that she has become an advocate for it.

Perhaps one of Blake’s most important contributions to women’s health came in 2009, when she and a panel of other doctors authored and published what is known as “The Update” in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada. The Update was a response to a study published in 2002 that claimed that hormone therapy was unsafe for women as it could cause breast cancer, heart disease and cognitive decline. As a result, many women and their doctors were hesitant to use hormone therapy to treat menopause. The results of The Update revealed that the claims made in the 2002 study were overstated and that, in fact, hormone therapy often does not increase the risk of these health concerns.

As Blake says, there is no “one size fits all approach” to menopause and that a woman and her doctor should always look at things like timing and age when they are deciding how to treat menopause. The Update not only gives peace of mind to women who use hormone therapy now but also provides new options to women who may be approaching it later.

With more and more Canadian women reaching the age of menopause each year, Blake’s work in menopause, and in other areas of gynaecology and women’s health, will be of tremendous use. It is not just for the weight of her research that she is considered an influential woman, but also the strength and resolve it took to pursue it.