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 Allison Roach Award 2004

Dr. Lavina LICKLEY'54
Her motto being “enjoy what you do”, Lavina has always “kept well the road” in both her professional and personal endeavours.While at Branksome Hall, Lavina not only maintained top grades in her classes, but also performed
Scottish dancing and was instrumental in producing the first student presentation of a musical revue. She helped to write the hit revue McNamara’s Band, and also put her seamstress skills to work by leading the charge in creating all of the costumes for her fellow thespians.
 
Professionally, Lavina was the first woman to be appointed Professor of General Surgery at the University of Toronto, and was Chief of Surgery at Women's College Hospital from 1989 to 2000. Throughout her career, Lavina
has been instrumental in the fight against breast cancer. A survivor herself, she has befriended and encouraged numerous women to face and
overcome their fears in the treatment of and recovery from this pervasive disease. Her research and teaching have taken her around the world. Lavina
spent a six-month sabbatical in Australia before travelling to Indonesia, where she also re-established links with two Branksome classmates, Molly HEWITT and Adele MacBEATH Ellis.
 
Her love of Branksome Hall remains as strong today as when she attended the school from 1950 to 1954. She continues to speak of the school and her classmates with true affection. Her friends credit her with being the glue that keeps them in touch with each other.They speak of her admirable character, her infectious spirit of service to her fellow human beings, and her sense of humour and love of life. Her biographical sketch lists accomplishments, committees and awards too numerous to mention in this short summary of a life being lived to the full.

Lavina continues to inspire young women around the globe, encouraging them to leave the world a little better and wiser than they found it.
– Reesa DOWE Hughes’90 and Wendy SCHAAL Oldham’90
 
Excerpts from Lavina's acceptance speech
It was amazingly heartwarming to welcome the women from the class of 1954 yesterday so we could meet, chat, and go together to the reunion. There are some members of our class that I see regularly, although not often enough, including Susie MITCHELL Kilpatrick, who has been my friend since Grade Two, and who so movingly introduced me today. However, many of those from the Class of ’54 who have come this weekend I have not seen for 50 years.
 
Today I feel myself not weeping for the lost years, but recapturing, if only fleetingly, those days when we were carefree Branksome students.

I am very honoured to accept the Allison Roach Alumna Award.
 
My life has had its twists and turns. It’s a little known secret that my original aim was to go through Law, and become the first Prime Mistress of Canada. I wonder if I would have done a better job?

For somewhat bizarre and inexplicable reasons, I ended up in physiology and biochemistry at the University of Toronto. At that time, if you actually managed to pass all four years, you did have the opportunity of an automatic entrance into medicine. As I didn’t want, at that point, to teach, or become a lab technician, and they didn’t think I was smart enough to do graduate work, I decided that medicine might, after all, be somewhat interesting.
 
I was halfway through when I had a revelation. My mother had been very ill, and the Chairman of the Department of Surgery was going to operate on her and,
as I was a medical student, and he was a gentleman, he invited me to his office to show me her x-rays and explain how he proposed to fix her problem. From that moment on I was hooked and wanted to do surgery. As I was the first woman in ten years that had actually applied for a surgical residency, I was admitted, and I looked back on those residency years as the fun
years. After I finished my surgical training, I found that I did, after all, want to teach and that I might be able to manage graduate work, and I did want to be part of the academic surgical world, so off I went and did a Ph.D. at McGill University in experimental medicine, and was taken on as staff at Women’s College Hospital.
 
The following years are what I call the “happy years.” I also had the privilege of
being a part of the Physiology Department and collaborating with Dr. Mladen Vranic in research that looked at the metabolic and hormonal responses to stress.We had 20 very productive years together until I was appointed
Surgeon-in-Chief at Women’s College Hospital in 1989. This was, however, a somewhat schizoid life. On the one hand I was doing metabolic research, and
on the other hand I was a plain general surgeon doing the usual hernias, gall bladders, breast surgery, and of course hemorrhoids. I don’t know if any of you know that my very first invited talk was to the volunteers of Women’s
College Hospital, and I gave them an illustrated talk on hemorrhoids,
completely ruining their lunch.
Through the years, the family doctors you associate with send you what they
think you do best, and I slowly became mainly a breast surgeon, with a burgeoning interest in clinical research in breast cancer, and very much involved in clinical trials of breast cancer prevention. Irony of ironies, I followed in my mother’s footsteps, and developed breast cancer –as our then Dean, Arnie Aberman, remarked: “I hear you have had a bit of a brush with the health care system.” Nine years have passed since then, and every day has been a blessing.
 
Life at Women’s College was not halcyon during my tenure as Surgeon-in-
Chief. In fact it was quite chaotic. Now we are Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre. I have some ambivalence about this. On one hand, I have always very much been a part of Sunnybrook, as my father was in charge of building it. On the other hand, I have always loved Women’s College Hospital. The future will resolve this dichotomy. I now do breast surgery only, and it has been a real privilege to look after women in their time of real stress and anxiety.

Do I have any regrets? Yes, it would have been nice to have a partner to go
through life with, and children – perhaps even a Branksome girl or two, but work and friends have made life extremely rewarding.
 
Again, thank you to the members of the Alumnae Association and the many
people who honoured me with this award, including Karen Murton, the
Principal of Branksome Hall,Wendy Cecil, Chair of the Board of Governors,
and especially Tanya Pimenoff, who has done so much to make this weekend a success for all of us.

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