As it matures into a structured organization, BPAO is demonstrating it can be an important community force by fulfilling its mission: “to unite Black physicians and surgeons of Ontario, within the existing medical system, in order to identify and promote best practices, approaches to ensure culturally-appropriate medical service delivery and public education”. The Executive Committee continues to search for more ways of engaging the BPAO membership, and of course, be accountable to its members. Going forward, an Annual Report will be presented to BPAO members at the beginning of the following year. This Annual Report is for the year 2013.
At the end of 2012, an Executive Committee was formed to give a formal structure to the organization. Hence, 2013 began with a very ambitious agenda and we are on track to becoming a recognized community organization advocating for the health of the black community. The official website of BPAO is www.bpao.org . We will continue to develop the site to offer more to our members in the near future.
A formal partnership was negotiated with TAIBU, a Community Health Centre with a mandate to serve the black population in the GTA. As the two organizations share a common mission of establishing Best Practises in addressing the overall health concerns of the Black Community and Black Physicians were instrumental in the creation of TAIBU, it makes sense that we work hand in hand. We continue to strengthen the relationship by identifying common objectives that best serve our communities. BPAO is now housed at TAIBU. We thank TAIBU and its Executive Director, Liben Gebremikael, for their support of BPAO.
The Annual Black Health Symposium took place on February 23, 2013. This is a Continuing Medical Education (CME) event, accredited by the University of Toronto. Participation is increasing over time and more than 70 health professionals attended the conference. Participants enjoyed the quality of lectures presented; in fact some were nominated for University of Toronto’s lectureship awards. Based on the survey that was completed by more than half of our participants, there was notable diversity in the ethnicities, gender and professional backgrounds of our participants, as the CME is open to all interested in the health of black populations. Most importantly, 73% of those who completed the survey are willing to mentor a black student interested in health care. Increasing the representation of people of African/Caribbean descent in medicine through mentorship being one of the key objectives of BPAO, the CME event is also a wonderful opportunity for interested students to meet potential mentors.
On the topic of increasing numbers of blacks in medicine, Dr. Onye Nnorom, our Outreach Director and Dr. Placide Rubabaza, Executive Director, met with the Dean of Admissions at the University of Toronto, Dr. Mark Hanson, on December 13th, 2013. He was accompanied by Ike Okafor, Senior Officer in the Service of Learning and Diversity Outreach. We agreed in principle to form a partnership to explore ways to expose the black youth to the medical field and opportunities for scholarships, hence enhancing their chances of getting admitted into medicine. If there are members of our organization who would be willing to seat on this committee, please let us know.
In the same vein, in partnership with TAIBU, BPAO initiated and organized a youth event at TAIBU on June 22nd 2013. It was an opportunity for the youth from disadvantaged communities to come and meet black health professionals. About 80 youth participated and they described the different barriers they face and learned how to overcome them for a career in the health fields. Scotia Bank supported the event and 3 scholarships of $ 500 each were handed out to the most deserving based on set criteria. This event will be held on an annual basis and we hope to increasingly engage the black youth as our organisation grows.
BPAO will strive to continue to engage black communities and advocate for their wellbeing and health. We believe there is a critical mass of black physicians in Ontario to make BPAO a successful story of black organisation. It is incumbent to all of us to be role models to our youth and communities and hence, change the narrative of what we often see in the news about our communities.
An important objective for this year is to apply for a charitable status. To further grow, BPAO needs operational funds for its activities. We hope to be able to also provide scholarships soon. A charitable status will allow BPAO be able to raise funds. As we continue to strengthen the organisational structure of BPAO, we invite all black physicians of Ontario to be actively involved with the organization. United, we will be stronger and have a sounding voice.
We take this opportunity to thank members of the Executive Committee for their continued leadership for the success of BPAO. We are also indebted to pioneers in Black Physicians organization movement. We sincerely express our gratitude to them. Our deep appreciation also goes to our volunteers, without whom BPAO would not be able to organize its activities.
Dr. Placide Rubabaza
BPAO Executive Director
Dr. Cynthia Maxwell