Dr. Mary Papantony was truly a one-of-a-kind woman. Though she passed away following a long illness in July 2016, she lived a rich and storied life during her 86 years. Those who were fortunate to know her often joke that she had nine lives and lived each one of them to the fullest.
Dr. Papantony was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1930 to a Greek family. Together with her sister Douki and brother Nicholas, she had a wonderful childhood that was greatly influenced by the vibrancy and culture of her native city. As a young woman, Dr. Papantony studied medicine at the University of Alexandria before completing an internship at a local hospital. It was there that she met her husband, a fellow medical student, and together they moved to Albany, New York, to undertake further medical training.
In the 1960s, after a number of years living in the United States, Dr. Papantony and her husband relocated to Toronto. She did her residency at St. Michael’s Hospital and then moved to Mount Sinai Hospital where she became the first certified female staff anesthesiologist.
“Mary’s life was the hospital – she was very proud of her work,” says Mike Vidic, a close friend and former co-worker. “We met in the OR [operating room] at Mount Sinai, when I was working as an anesthesia respiratory therapist and we became good friends. Mary was the most competent and compassionate anesthesiologist; she really cared about her patients and showed great interest in people. Despite her accomplishments, she was always modest – there was never any arrogance or bragging with Mary – but she was very dedicated to her profession and to providing the best possible care.”
Another of Dr. Papantony’s friends, Dr. Cleo Rogakou, an orthopedic surgeon at Southlake Regional Health Centre, remembers her as “her own woman – there was no one like Mary. She was incredibly bright and observant; young at heart; generous; a very principled person who always tried to do the right thing – she was really one-of-a-kind.” In addition to her successful medical career, Dr. Papantony was also very creative and artistic. She possessed a fabulous eye for fashion, was a skilled pianist – a hobby she practiced in her spare time – and a wonderful cook who loved making and sharing meals with friends. “She made the best pavlova I’ve ever had!” says Dr. Rogakou.
Mary was remarkable, even at the end, she maintained her sense of humour and dignity. St. Michael’s gave her five more years of life that she may not have had and for that, we’re all very grateful. — Dr. Greyson, long-time friend
Dr. Papantony’s life was greatly enriched by many loving and loyal friendships, some of which she maintained from childhood until her passing. Her Canadian family of friends—which includes Mike Vidic and his partner, Thierry; Dr. Rogakou and her husband, Craig Thomlinson; and Dr. David Greyson and his wife, Janet—were with her through thick and thin, supporting her through many major life events, including a number of serious health issues. Dr. Papantony lovingly referred to them as “the Committee,” as they helped her get her affairs in order before she eventually passed away following a long battle with advanced kidney disease. Mary is survived by her niece Anna Katahana who lives in Athens, Greece.
Dr. Martin Schreiber, an award-winning nephrologist at St. Michael’s Hospital was Dr. Papantony’s primary physician for nearly two decades. “It was a huge honour to be involved in her care,” he says. “I remember when I first met her, I made the mistake of calling her ‘Mrs. Papantony’ and she quickly corrected me saying, ‘You can call me Mary or Dr. Papantony but I’m not Mrs. Papantony.’ She had a wonderful sense of humour and really kept me on my toes as a physician.”
Dr. Papantony was equally as impressed with Dr. Schreiber and very grateful for the care and treatment she received from him and the teams on St. Michael’s dialysis, respiratory, cardiac and palliative care units. To express her thanks and contribute to furthering innovation in kidney disease care, Dr. Papantony generously left a gift in her will that will be used to establish the Dr. Mary Papantony Research Fund at St. Michael’s Hospital.
“Mary was remarkable,” remembers her long-time friend, Dr. Greyson. “Even at the end, she maintained her sense of humour and dignity. St. Michael’s gave her five more years of life that she may not have had and for that, we’re all very grateful.”
“When I think of Mary, I think of what a marvelous storyteller she was – she could make a trip to the dentist sound like an adventure!” adds Mrs. Greyson. “Establishing this research fund in Mary’s name will ensure her story lives on for many years to come.”
To learn more about how to leave a bequest to St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation in your will, contact Sandra Smith, Philanthropy Officer, Gift Planning, 416-864-6060 ext. 2044 or SmithSan@smh.ca.