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Apr. 16, 2021 | Friday
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COVID has united women worldwide, Dr. Robin Williams says
Dr. Robin Williams. (Supplied)

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc around the globe, but it also has united women in the pandemic battle, Dr. Robin Williams says.

The Niagara-on-the-Lake physician spoke at an International Women’s Day event on Friday at which she was honoured for her long, impressive career as a doctor and advocate. 

At the virtual gathering, hosted by the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Niagara council, Williams gave an uplifting speech, outlining some of the work she’s done related to COVID-19 and the role women have played in the pandemic.

“We’ve been through a global fight for survival of humanity and such a cute little red spiked ball that you see on the news all the time, this doggone COVID-19 that has just wreaked havoc with our lives," she said.

"The world has felt off kilter, off its axis. It’s like we’ve been in a worldwide cyclone and I think for the first time in centuries, we are united as women all across the world."

She said that shared uncertainty has helped unite women around the world.

"You know the women in Uzbekistan, in Australia, in Africa, we all share the same fears and anxiety as women, for our families for children, for our businesses, for our societies,” she said.

Williams said she was delighted to speak during the online conference.

“Clearly the room is full of women achievers, and I want us to realize that I’m really here just as a placeholder in the line of celebrating,” she said. “I’m holding the place for you.”

“I want you to just pause for a minute about the models and mentors that have supported you. The models, and not necessarily the ones on the runway, but the women who have shaped your dreams," she said.

"The ones that have been for real in your life, but also the ones that have come from books and films, from your workplace, your teachers, all those who have helped you to see and realize what your potential is.”

The St. Davids resident has been a pediatrician, was Niagara’s top public health doctor for many years and received the Order of Canada for her career’s work.

She now is a special adviser to Ontario’s Ministry of Health and served as a special adviser to Niagara’s community co-ordination task force for COVID-19 vaccinations.

“Williams comes from a family of physicians, following in their footsteps and obtaining her MD in 1970,” said Niagara Region chair Jim Bradley.

Early in her career, Williams was associate medical officer of the newly created Niagara Region and “soon discovered her calling, helping children and their families live happily and healthily,” Bradley said.

“She became a pediatrician, and in 1981 opened her private practice in Niagara Falls. In 1995, Dr. Williams became Niagara’s medical officer of health, a post she held for 16 years.”

Part of her legacy as medical officer includes the creation of smoke-free zones and non-smoking areas, pre-empting the Smoke-free Ontario Act by years and “saving countless lives from secondhand smoke,” he said.

“Dr. Williams was also a driving force behind the creation of the Niagara Children’s Charter, which created policies to support children and youth and ensure a healthy future for our region.”

He praised her for her work with Ontario children, bringing the Ontario Early Years Centre to Niagara to create a positive environment for children to play, explore and interact, and for her accolades as an educator.

She holds professorships at the University of Western Ontario’s Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and McMaster University Department of pediatrics. She also recently served as vice-chair of Brock University’s board of trustees and is a member of the NOTL Public Library board.

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