Dr Hedwige E. Chodos (nee Habegger)

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 50, No. 9, November 2008, Page 522 Obituaries


Dr Hedwige (Hedy) Chodos died in July after a short, devastating illness. As a friend and colleague, I was asked by her husband, Dr Joel Chodos, to write her story for the Journal’s In Memoriam section. 

Hedy was born in Switzerland in 1925. After graduating in medicine at the University of Geneva in 1950, she joined the university’s ophthalmology clinic under the direction of the world-renowned professor Adolph Fran­ceschetti. While working in the laboratory on her doctoral thesis in the early 1950s, she was the first to demon­strate the presence of an organism known as Toxoplasma gondii in the fluid of the eye of a patient with chorioretinitis, a potentially blinding disease. This discovery led to various chemical and antibiotic treatments, thereby saving the vision of numerous patients worldwide. Her name was af­fectionately changed from Dr Habegger to “Toxy.”

From 1953 to 1955, at the Harvard School of Public Health (Department of Epidemiology), Hedy worked on important research on the causes of retrolental fibroplasia in immature infants. 
In 1957, Hedy married Dr Joel Chodos, a Canadian who graduated in medicine from the University of Geneva. In 1958, she was appointed as co-director of the Uveitis Clinic at the Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, the largest eye hospital in the US. She was also given a faculty appointment in the Graduate School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, where she taught courses to eye residents at Wills. During her stay in Philadelphia, Hedy developed an epidemiological model for the rapid diagnosis of toxoplasmic uveitis, as well as new antibiotic treatment. 

Hedy had difficulty tolerating the weather in Philadelphia, however, and she and her husband decided to move to the warmer climate of the west coast of Canada. In Vancouver, at the first interview Hedy had with the registrar of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia, the registrar was so impressed with her qualifications that he immediately got in his car and drove her from the College to St. Paul’s Hospital to get the signature of the College’s president, thereby expediting the granting of her BC medical licence. In 1960, Hedy passed the fellowship exams of the Royal College of Canada in ophthalmology and joined her husband in practice in May 1961. She retired in February 2003. 

Hedy’s great passion was gardening; she was an expert on dahlias and was a longtime member of the Vancouver Dahlia Society, receiving many awards for her flowers. Along with her love of gardening, she was also a talented seamstress. Hedy was an extremely intelligent doctor and an excellent ophthalmol­ogist, keeping up with the European eye journals as well as all the Canadian and American publications. I had been the lone woman ophthalmologist in Vancouver since 1958, so Hedy’s arrival in Vancouver in 1961 marked the beginning of a great friendship, and I will miss her.

—Eileen Cambon, MD Vancouver

Eileen Cambon, MD,. Dr Hedwige E. Chodos (nee Habegger) . BCMJ, Vol. 50, No. 9, November, 2008, Page(s) 522 - Obituaries.

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