Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario Statement of Support

The Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario applauds the University of Toronto’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine on producing this report and hosting a historical event to address anti-Black racism in medical education. We want to recognize the steps that the Faculty is taking towards decolonization, disrupting anti-Black racism and addressing various intersecting forms of oppression that impact learners, staff, faculty and clinical settings.

The combination of the Summer Mentorship Program, the Community of Support and the Black Student Application Program have resulted in a historic increase in Black medical students, as well as greater representation of diverse groups in the medical class. As the number of Black medical trainees increase, it is our expectation that they will be given equal opportunities to access resources, mentorship, research opportunities, leadership opportunities throughout their training and be encouraged to transition to faculty. We also acknowledge and honor the heavy lifting of Black administrative staff (non-medical) who provide Black medical trainees and faculty with support and innovative approaches to create change.

The Faculty of Medicine’s Diversity Statement states that it will “make inclusion and equity essential components of how we define and foster excellence in scholarship, practice and health outcomes”. In establishing inclusion and equity as essential components, we imagine that moments of recognition will not be in isolation as one-time events but will become a way of life, with ongoing public accountability.

This report and event are the result of advocacy by Black faculty, learners and staff, including Dr. Onye Nnorom, Mr. Ike Okafor and many internal and external stakeholders. It is only becoming a reality due to allyship and progressive leadership at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, namely Vice Dean Dr. Patricia Houston, as well as the hard work of diverse staff, including Paul Tonin and his team who did a great deal of heavy lifting. We recognize and celebrate these partnerships.

BPAO must take this moment to recognize and celebrate the legacy of Black peoples at the Faculty of Medicine (past and present faculty, staff and learners) who have made it possible to accomplish the progress we have witnessed so far with regards to the equitable representation of Black medical students and the subsequent changes in recent years. It is our hope that champions who planted the seeds for equity to progress at Temerty will be duly recognized whenever we celebrate progress, including administrative staff and learners.

We honor Black faculty, staff and learners (past and present) who have helped to shape policies and practices at Temerty that have resulted in broad change:

Dr. Miriam Rossi, former Associate Dean of Student Affairs & Admissions, led and supported numerous initiatives to increase Black and other under-represented groups in medicine – initiatives such as the Summer Mentorship Program have inspired so many Black and Indigenous leaders in medicine today. Her accomplishments outside of U of T, including contributing to the establishment of TAIBU Community Health Centre and the Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario, continue to create additional opportunities for Black physicians and learners. She has transitioned as an ancestor – we honor her memory. She was a visionary who planted the seeds that are flourishing today. We celebrate her. We honour her.

Dr. Anna Jarvis, Professor Emerita, Department of Paediatrics, University of Toronto (Toronto, Ontario). As Associate Dean, Health Professions, Student Affairs, Toronto, she coordinated student support services, provided mentorship to leaders such as Dr. Miriam Rossi and many of the Black medical leaders who have gone on to shape the Black experience at Temerty. We salute her.

Ms. Diana Ali was formerly the Senior Officer, Service Learning, Community Partnership, Student Life. She is of Indo-Caribbean descent and was a co-founder of the Faculty of Medicine’s Summer Mentorship Program which was designed to introduce Black and Indigenous high school students to broad health fields, including medicine.

Dr. Dominick Shelton, Associate Professor in the Department of Family and Community medicine is co-founder of the Summer Mentorship Program when he was a trainee. With Dr. Rossi they created the Association for the Advancement of Blacks in Health Sciences (AABHS), and co-founded the Summer Mentorship Program, and the BPAO. Dr. Shelton is also a co-founder of TAIBU Community Health Centre, which serves Black communities and provides opportunities to Black and non-Black learners at Temerty.

Dr. Sean Wharton, a former medical student at Temerty, founded the first Black Medical Student Association in Canada. BMSA U of T is now over 20 years old and has inspired the creation of numerous BMSA’s across the country, including the establishment of BMSA Canada, and other medical affinity groups that bring under-represented medical students together to feel empowered and become agents of change in the field of medicine. We celebrate all BMSA U of T leaders and members, past and present, and the newly established Black Resident Physicians of Ontario.

Mr. Ike Okafor, Senior Officer, Service Learning and Diversity Outreach, Office of Inclusion and Diversity. Ike has led the Summer Mentorship Program, established the Community of Support and played a critical leadership role in the development of the Black Student Application Program, along with ally Dr. Mark Hanson. Ike continues to lead initiatives to ensure the Black experience at Temerty is a positive one. His scholarship with and passion for diversity in medicine led to the published work on this topic, sharing approaches to increase Black representation in medicine.

Ms. Latoya Dennie, former Outreach Coordinator, Office of Health Professions Student Affairs, Temerty. She worked closely with Ike Okafor to run the Summer Mentorship Program, and the Discover program, a year-long program that extends the experience for SMP students through different activities including mentorship and attending conferences and workshops.

Dr. Renee Beach, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Temerty Faculty of Medicine and previous board member, Outreach Director at BPAO. Dr. Beach played a key role in the establishment of the Black Student Application Program, served in the inaugural BPAO position on the Admissions Committee and has led a number of mentorship events and initiatives for Black pre-medical students at Temerty, in collaboration with Mr. Ike Okafor.

Dr. Lisa Robinson is Vice Dean, Strategy & Operations, and Professor, Department of Paediatrics and Institute of Medical Science, Temerty. She founded the Manulife Kids Science program at the Hospital for Sick Children, which provides interactive science outreach to marginalized middle and high school youth. She founded the Student Advancement Research (StAR) Program, a SickKids summer research program that provides a six-week paid internship (in research and clinical shadowing) for Black, Indigenous and other under-represented minority high school students. In 2016, she was appointed the first-ever Chief Diversity Officer at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine where she led numerous initiatives and policy changes to advance diversity, equity and inclusion across the Faculty of Medicine.

We cannot name all the names but we salute every single person who has experienced anti-Black racism within and outside the walls of the Faculty of Medicine. “Showing up” is a great accomplishment alone, but so many of you have spoken up and have been agents of change, in solidarity with our allies. We salute all of you.

It is our hope that the Temerty Faculty of Medicine continues on this journey of public accountability, reporting on equity progress on a regular basis, as this is a powerful way to ensure that we dismantle anti-Black racism in medicine and improve the quality of care in this country.

In solidarity,

Dr. Onye Nnorom
President, BPAO

Ms. Chenai Kadungure
Executive Director, BPAO