Issue 7 Stories

Preserving a Medical Pioneer’s Legacy

J. Kaye Halsey, MD, was a trailblazer in the medical community. A 1978 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, she was the second woman in the history of the university to complete the obstetrics and gynecology residency program, in 1982. The first woman to complete this residency program did so in 1934, an astounding 48 years prior! These two individuals were on the forefront of changing the norms of their times. Dr. Halsey helped pave the way for future generations of women to fulfill their calling and devote their talents for the benefit of the medical profession.

“Kaye pursued her medical career during an era when career opportunities for women were extremely limited due to the social norms of the time,” says Christine Shaw, Dr. Halsey’s partner. “These norms, however, did not stop her from dreaming about effecting social change. Kaye was encouraged by her parents to pursue math and science, as well as to participate in sports. We don’t think twice about this now for our daughters, but in the 1950s this was the epitome of vanguard thinking! Kaye was smart, strong-willed, courageous and determined to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. She was the perfect individual to break down gender barriers for women in the medical profession. Three decades later, the pendulum of change has swung, and now more females than males are enrolled in medical schools throughout the United States. Kaye was one of the early change agents who brought forth possibilities for other women to pursue their dreams.”

A Virginia Beach native and Radford University graduate, Dr. Halsey opened her practice and joined the medical staff of Martha Jefferson Hospital in 1982. During her tenure at Martha Jefferson, she served as section chief for the OB-GYN Department from 1987-1988, and chief of surgery from 1994-1995. She also served on the Medical Executive, Operating Room and Quality Assurance committees. She provided care for her patients for 32 years before she retired in 2014. Two years later, on August 12, 2016, Kaye Halsey passed away unexpectedly.

To honor Dr. Halsey’s legacy, Shaw established the J. Kaye Halsey, MD Memorial Scholarship in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital. The award supports the advancement of nursing education on the Obstetrics/Gynecology/Women’s Health Unit of the hospital. The scholarship will be awarded annually to an outstanding nurse working on the unit who models and promotes a respect for inclusivity and diversity in the delivery of health care. The first scholarship will be awarded in 2018 and the recipient’s photo published in the Fall 2018 magazine.

“Kaye was a talented surgeon as well as a tireless and compassionate advocate for all of her patients, whether they were among the multitude of mothers for whom she helped deliver babies safely or the female patients whose health and well-being she supported over the course of three decades—many of whom spanned multiple generations within the same family,” says Shaw, who works as the community liaison for Home Instead Senior Care.

“Kaye was part of the fabric of this community and part of the family of medical professionals who proudly serve our community at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital. I especially want to honor her legacy as a pioneer in the medical profession and encourage others to emulate her respect for diversity among all patients. Kaye showed compassion and empathy because she believed in the tenets of inclusivity. I want to establish this scholarship so Kaye’s legacy can live on by recognizing those outstanding nursing professionals who embrace—and whose professional practice and life embody—a respect for diversity and inclusivity, and who are innovative in providing health care at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital.”

In addition to establishing this scholarship at Sentara Martha Jefferson, Shaw purchased a commemorative Eastern Redbud tree that has been planted on the hospital campus in Dr. Halsey’s memory. She also created a memorial scholarship through the University of Virginia Medical Alumni Association to provide financial assistance to a female, fourth-year medical student pursuing residency training in obstetrics/gynecology. Similar to the Sentara Martha Jefferson scholarship, the recipient of the U.Va. scholarship must “demonstrate respect for diversity, abide by the principles of inclusivity and have a desire to continue Dr. Halsey’s legacy in making a difference in women’s health.”

To honor Dr. Halsey and raise awareness about women’s heart health, Shaw participated in the annual American Heart Walk in October 2017. Despite heavy rains on the day of the walk, the event was well attended by enthusiastic supporters and Dr. Halsey’s honorary “walk team” of patients, friends and medical associates. Honoring her legacy through their participation, these hearty souls later joined Shaw at her home to further honor Dr. Halsey through shared memories.

Despite losing her beloved partner, Shaw finds comfort in supporting organizations and causes that were important to Dr. Halsey. “Keeping Kaye’s memory alive helps me heal from my devastating loss and gets me through the difficult times that grief presents,” she says. “I know Kaye’s spirit is always with me, and that knowledge by itself gives me strength. Kaye was a change agent in her time, and through the scholarships at both Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital and the University of Virginia Medical Center, I want to give others the opportunity to think of themselves in a similar fashion. Recent events in politics and even the local events last August demonstrate that there will always be barriers to break down and social norms to challenge and address. I hope both of these scholarships will give people the same kind of strength I receive from Kaye as they further her legacy as a pioneer and agent of change for the benefit of our collective community.”


Endowment Fundraising Priorities
Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital
Palliative Care Medicine                                  $4 million
Education and Professional Development
Nursing Care Team/The Haden Institute     $6 million
Clinical/Medical/Technical Care Team          $2 million
Cancer Care
High-Risk Breast Cancer Program                 $2 million
Survivorship Program                                      $2 million
Patient Experience and Caregiver Support                                             
Caring Tradition Initiatives                              $2 million
Caregiver Support Program                            $2 million

For information on endowment opportunities at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital, interested individuals are encouraged to contact the Martha Jefferson Hospital Foundation by calling (434) 654-8258 to speak with a member of the special gift staff.

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