Spotlight on Health is a monthly newsletter featuring health tips, profiles of doctors making a difference around Ontario, and recent news from the Ontario Medical Association
Dr. Cheryl Wagner: A career devoted to treating patients with AIDS
As a medical student, Dr. Cheryl Wagner thought she would “save lives and stamp out disease,” but as a new physician practicing in downtown Toronto at the start of the AIDS epidemic her reality was far different than what she’d imagined.
Dr. Wagner was attending medical school at McMaster University in the early 1980s when AIDS was first clinically observed in the United States, but yet just four years later 60 per cent of her patients were dealing with the disease. It was a challenging, exhausting and remarkable experience for the doctor who came to medicine in Toronto via rural Alabama and Quaker-run peace studies on an island in Eastern Ontario.
“I saw a way to meld issues around health and social justice with science,” she said of her decision to go back to medical school years after earning her pre-med degree in Ohio.
Her first experience as a physician was as a fly-in doctor in Northern Ontario but not long into that experience a call came to take over the practice of a GP in Toronto, who was diagnosed with AIDS. It was here she would begin her ongoing work with patients struggling with AIDS.