On July 1, 2015, Dr Frances Kelsey was named to the Order of Canada. A high and well-deserved honour for this SMS alumna and a long overdue acknowledgement from her country of birth where she remain little-known.
Born in 1914, Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey defied societal norms of her day to pursue a successful career as first a pharmacologist and then a medical doctor. However, she is best known for her role in preventing the drug thalidomide from entering the United States in the 1960s.
Despite being new to the Federal Drug Administration at the time, Dr. Kelsey demonstrated sound judgement and great courage in rejecting the application to market thalidomide, resisting tremendous pressure from her superiors and threats from the drug company. As a result of her actions, thousands of infants were saved from the disastrous side effects of the drug and laws were reformed to protect the public from potentially harmful pharmaceuticals.
The legacy of thalidomide is a terrible one for the 46 countries, including Canada, who did approve the sale of the drug. But Dr. Kelsey’s story is a shining example of individual tenacity, and the power of the few to affect the lives of many.
In honour of Dr. Kelsey’s centennial, we were proud to rename the science wing after this remarkable alumna, paying tribute to her achievements as a scientist, and ensuring that her legacy continues to inspire the young women of St. Margaret’s School.
You can read the complete article and view a video interview with this extraordinary alumna on our school blog: https://www.stmarg.ca/sms-now/news/paying-tribute-extraordinary-alumna-dr-frances-kelsey