McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Three generations of women: Student follows grandmother, mother and aunt into medicine

Published: October 13, 2010
Elise Wright
Elise Wright, first year medical student at McMaster University’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine

One family. Three generations of women. All health professionals. Elise Wright’s family tree reads like a version of who’s who in health care.

Wright’s grandmother, Hanna Szachniewicz, was a psychiatric nurse. Her aunt, Dr. Silvia von Hanna, was one of the first two women to graduate from the newly established school of medicine at McMaster University in 1972 and was general physician specializing in psychotherapy. Her mother, Dr. Ilka Wright, has been a family doctor in Hamilton for 25 years.

"I have been inspired by a long history of female health professionals in my family," said Wright, 24. She was among 204 first year medical students receiving their white clerk’s jackets at McMaster University’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine eighth annual White Coat Ceremony.

They are the class of 2013. The white coat ceremony represents the beginning of their journey to become a physician. By donning the white coat, each student affirms his or her dedication to caring for people and upholding their professional obligations.

While most of the students hold degrees from Canadian universities, some have arrived at McMaster from as far away as Tel Aviv University in Israel and North Umbria in England. Their varied undergraduate degrees range from chemical engineering, molecular genetics, psychology, English and global studies to physical and health education and cinema studies.

Wright, born and raised in Hamilton, said her family did not pressure her to become a doctor.  Rather, her own experiences and involvement as a mental health volunteer, coupled with research projects, drew her into medicine. "In high school, I witnessed the psychosocial difficulties experienced by many of my peers and found that adequate resources were lacking."

Shadowing a psychiatrist confirmed for Wright that becoming a doctor was the right choice for her. She plans to specialize in psychiatry with the hope of dedicating her career to improving mental health services in Ontario.

Wright was excited to be part of the white coat ceremony. "I’m on the path to becoming the person I want to be — helping people who are suffering from mental illness. I’m pretty happy to be here," she said.

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