Memorable Manitobans: Josefina Asgerdur “Asa” Kristjansson MacDonell (1918-2020)
Physician, medical administrator.
Born at Winnipeg on 5 May 1918, the second in a family of five children born to Icelandic immigrants Holmfridur Jonsdottir (1892-1983) and Fridrik Kristjansson, she excelled in school and music in her youth, and considered a career as a professional musician before being convinced by her father to attend university.
She attended the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Manitoba and graduated in 1943. Shortly afterwards, she married fellow physician John A. “Jack” MacDonell and they later had a daughter. She enlisted in the Canadian Army Medical Corps and, after the Second World War ended, she and her husband remained in London, England to take further medical studies before returning to Winnipeg.
In 1947, she joined the medical staff of the Deer Lodge Hospital. After several years as an allergy specialist, she moved into medical administration. She became the hospital's Assistant Administrator in the early 1960s, rising in 1970 to become the Administrator, the first woman to administer a veterans hospital in Canada. She was instrumental in the creation of the Geriatric Day Hospital at the facility.
She retired to Victoria, British Columbia in 1985, moving to Toronto, Ontario in 2001 to be closer to their family. She died there on 29 June 2020.
“Woman heads hospital,” Winnipeg Free Press, 26 December 1970.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 8 August 2020.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 14 April 2022