Dr Eileen Cambon, 1926–2017

With the passing of Dr Eileen Cambon, BC has lost one of its pioneer female physicians.

With the passing of Dr Eileen Cambon, BC has lost one of its pioneer female physicians.

In 1958, Dr Cambon arrived in Vancouver to become the first female ophthalmologist to practise in BC, and she did so for 44 years. She was a great role model for women in medicine and was adored by her patients.

Dr Cambon’s roots were in New Brunswick. She obtained her BSc at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) as preparation for studying medicine at McGill University. Competing with many war vets, as well as the quota on female students, resulted in her not being successful on her first application. The year of waiting did not go to waste: she completed an MSc in biology at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Being accepted to McGill’s class of ’51 must have been serendipity as her future husband, Dr Ken Cambon, was in the same class. They married at the end of their second year, making them the first married couple to graduate together from medicine at McGill.  

Upon graduation, Eileen and Ken needed to find a residency in the same hospital. The Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria would take Ken but not Eileen as they had taken a female the year before and she had left after getting pregnant. Dr Harold Griffith of curare fame took pity on the couple and offered them both an internship at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Montreal.

The plan was to then do general practice in a small town in Quebec, but Alcan was looking for two doctors to provide medical care for 2 years to their subsidiary in British Guiana. The company wanted to pay Ken $200 more per month than Eileen for the same job, but Eileen dug in her heels and they agreed to equal pay for equal work! That was 2 years of fabulous experience. Word got out to the East Indian mothers that there was a female doctor who would circumcise their sons, and Eileen became known as the local rabbi.

In further preparation for general practice, the couple then went to London to do a year of specialty training. Eileen chose ophthalmology and fell in love with it. The next challenge was finding the training and, as there were no change rooms for female surgeons, Eileen was turned down by many hospitals. The head of ophthalmology in Galveston, Texas, was a woman and agreed to take Eileen as well as Ken. By her second year in Texas, Eileen was chief resident.

Following residency, the Cambons set up practice in Vancouver, but the Alcan connection remained, and Eileen and Ken also did outreach clinics at the aluminum smelter in Kitimat and surrounding towns.

Eileen was a long-time member of the Federation of Medical Women of Canada (FMWC) and was the BC branch president in 1964 and national president from 1973 to 1974, the year the federation celebrated its 50th anniversary. From 1977 to 1987, she was the national coordinator for Canada to the Medical Women’s International Association.  

Eileen received many awards, including an honorary doctor of science degree from her alma mater, UNB, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first woman admitted to that university. She was made a senior member of the FMWC and the CMA, and received an Honorary Medical Alumni Award from the UBC Medical Alumni Association. She also received the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977.

Dr Cambon led a full and varied life. She was a trailblazer for women in medicine, a well-respected ophthalmologist, and a compassionate human being. She felt that general practice was the backbone of medicine and that all graduates would benefit from a year or two in this area. Her message to future women in medicine was that you can have it all and still have work-life balance, but you need to map your course early and, most importantly, choose a supportive partner. She shared many stories of women trailblazers in medicine in her book Uppity Women We Are!, an entertaining chronicle of female physicians in British Columbia from 1893 to 1993.

She was predeceased by her husband, Ken, and leaves behind two daughters, two grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

We shall miss you, Eileen. Thank you for providing the shoulders that other women in medicine have been able to stand on, and for all you did in leading the way for women in medicine!
—Beverley Tamboline, MD
—Shelley Ross, MD

Beverley Tamboline, MD, Shelley Ross, MD. Dr Eileen Cambon, 1926–2017. BCMJ, Vol. 59, No. 8, October, 2017, Page(s) 427-428 - Obituaries.

Above is the information needed to cite this article in your paper or presentation. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends the following citation style, which is the now nearly universally accepted citation style for scientific papers:
Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.

About the ICMJE and citation styles

The ICMJE is small group of editors of general medical journals who first met informally in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1978 to establish guidelines for the format of manuscripts submitted to their journals. The group became known as the Vancouver Group. Its requirements for manuscripts, including formats for bibliographic references developed by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), were first published in 1979. The Vancouver Group expanded and evolved into the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), which meets annually. The ICMJE created the Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals to help authors and editors create and distribute accurate, clear, easily accessible reports of biomedical studies.

An alternate version of ICMJE style is to additionally list the month an issue number, but since most journals use continuous pagination, the shorter form provides sufficient information to locate the reference. The NLM now lists all authors.

BCMJ standard citation style is a slight modification of the ICMJE/NLM style, as follows:

  • Only the first three authors are listed, followed by "et al."
  • There is no period after the journal name.
  • Page numbers are not abbreviated.

For more information on the ICMJE Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals, visit www.icmje.org

BCMJ Guidelines for Authors

Leave a Reply