Dr Mary Hallowell, 1926–2023

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 65, No. 7, September 2023, Pages 266-267 Obituaries

Dr Mary Hallowell

Dr Mary Hallowell graduated from Leeds Medical School in 1950. She worked in many United Leeds Hospitals, mainly in internal medicine and pediatrics, while preparing for higher qualifications in these subjects. Official training programs were non-existent, and higher qualifications in internal medicine were necessary to become a pediatrician in England. In 1956, she was admitted as a Member of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, and a few years later she was elected to the fellowship. She subsequently worked for 2½ years in Birmingham Children’s Hospital, renowned at the time for its work on celiac disease. Intestinal biopsy had just been introduced, and she carried out many of these procedures.

Dr Hallowell immigrated to Canada in 1960 and set up the first consulting pediatric practice in New Westminster. Initially she worked mainly in the hospitals in New Westminster, Surrey, and occasionally Maple Ridge. She treated many sick children with acute gastroenteritis, respiratory infections, meningitis, leukemia, and complications from infectious diseases. It was a great time to work, as hospital beds were easily accessible. As many childhood diseases became controlled by immunization and medicare became universally available, the incidence of very sick children decreased. Allergic disease became more common, and in 1976 children’s allergies became the focus of her practice. Dr Hallowell finally retired from solo practice in 1986. A few months later, she started part-time work at Care Place Medical Clinic in Surrey, where she worked for the next 12½ years.

Part-time work allowed her to pursue her love of tennis. In 1996 Dr Hallowell won the Canadian seniors doubles championship in the 70+ age group, and in 2002 the singles championship in the 75+ age group. She won many seniors tournaments in BC and some in the Pacific Northwest. She was privileged to play in two seniors Friendship Cups, in Suzuka, Japan, in 1997, and in Pörtschach am Wörthersee, Austria, in 2002. She was president of the BC Senior Women’s Committee, represented BC on the PNW Senior Women’s Committee, and was on the board of the World Medical Tennis Society for 25 years. The latter enabled her to compete with doctors from many different countries. At age 88, Dr Hallowell sustained a bad shoulder injury and had to give up playing, but she was fortunate to find an excellent physiotherapist and returned to the court 17 months later. After 80 years on the court, she finally hung up her tennis racket.

Dr Hallowell traveled extensively both with and without her tennis racket. Much to the surprise of her travel agent, she continued to travel until age 94, when COVID-19 saw the cancelation of a final trip to Portugal.

After moving to Vancouver in 2002, Dr Hallowell began attending courses at Simon Fraser University’s downtown campus and joined the SFU Seniors Lifelong Learners Society. She took courses in history, geography, comparative religion, economics, and art history. She also enjoyed attending operas and concerts at the Orpheum. She always remained interested in advances in pediatrics and changes in medical practice and was a member of the Federation of Medical Women of Canada.

Dr Hallowell also enjoyed wining and dining her friends, using the Vancouver Lawn Tennis Club as her venue. She held a last soiree on 7 July, which was a celebration of life with her in attendance. Suffering from chronic renal failure and no longer living the active life she loved, she remained in charge, deciding when she would leave the Earth. She did so peacefully on 18 July 2023, surrounded by friends.

Dr Hallowell was a local trailblazer. She trained and worked in times when women in medicine were by far in the minority. The concept of work life–home life balance did not exist, and she often worked 24/7, looking after very sick children. She leaves behind many grateful parents whose children’s lives were saved by her dedication and care. She will be missed.
—Shelley Ross, MD


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Shelley Ross, MD. Dr Mary Hallowell, 1926–2023. BCMJ, Vol. 65, No. 7, September, 2023, Page(s) 266-267 - Obituaries.

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