Doris Nunes-Collins: benefactor and role model for next generation of Pathology students

Doris Nunes-Collins didn’t intend to go to McGill.

In 1938, when she left her native Jamaica, it was to study medicine at the University of Durham in England, a plan that was disrupted by the outbreak of World War II.

Women and international students were both firmly in the minority on campus when Nunes-Collins transferred to McGill in 1940. But she felt welcomed, so much so that she stayed through three degrees and much of her residency training in Pathology.

“Her experiences were so positive that she retained a lifelong affection for our university,” says Edith Zorychta, MSc, PhD’74. “She had a highly successful career, which she attributed to the solid intellectual foundation and enthusiasm for research gained during her education at McGill.”

After receiving additional training at Queen’s University and in Cleveland, Ohio, Nunes-Collins moved to New York State, where she quickly became Director of Anatomic Pathology, a position she held until her retirement in 2000. Her research interests included diagnostic methodologies in anatomic pathology and epidemiologic factors affecting cervical and vaginal cancer. Throughout her career, she saw providing ongoing education as an integral part of her role. She also maintained an extensive tissue collection of rare lesions for teaching purposes.

When, in 2001, Collins received the Governor’s Award for Excellence from Governor George Pataki of the State of New York, the citation read: “Throughout her long and distinguished career with the New York State Health Department, Dr. Doris Collins had a profound impact upon the overall public health of our statewide population.”

“The Department of Pathology is exceptionally fortunate to receive the Doris Nunes-Collins Endowed Chair in memory of a former student, “ says Zorychta, who points out that Nunes-Collins is also an excellent role model for our next generation of students, making her already very thoughtful and generous gift all the more meaningful.

  • Doris Nunes-Collins, BSc, MDCM’44, MSc, remembered her time at McGill fondly
  • Earned three degrees and did much of her residency training here
  • Went on to enjoy a successful career in the US as an academic surgical pathologist
  • Was influential in the establishment of quality control for screening tests for cervical cancer
  • Left US$3 million for the creation of an endowed chair in her name in the Department of Pathology
  • Dr. Zu-hua Gao, Chair of the Pathology Department and Chief Pathologist at the McGill University Health Centre, is the inaugural holder of the Chair

This article was based on notes for a presentation made by Edith Zorychta, as well as on an article, “Dr. Doris Nunes-Collins Chair in Pathology,” which appeared in the Department of Pathology Winter 2015 newsletter.


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