Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario (BPAO)’s Inaugural Awards Gala Honours Black Excellence in Medicine

The Black Joy event celebrates BPAO members who take on “First Black” posts in their field and recognizes educators for excellence in teaching and medical learners for exemplary leadership

Toronto, ON — June 6, 2024 — The Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario, the most established organization of Black physicians in the country, is hosting its first Black Joy Awards Gala to bring together trailblazers, celebrate community champions and foster connections that contribute to the advancement of Black excellence in healthcare. The event will take place on June 15 in Toronto.

This inaugural event marks a significant moment in Black history in medicine, honouring and recognizing BPAO members who are taking on the “First Black” posts in their field.

Rosemary Sadlier will be one of the guests of honour at this year’s event. Sadlier was the president of the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS) from 1993 to 2015. As president, she contributed to the recognition of Black history through education, research and outreach programs. Sadlier’s efforts and pressure were central to the Canadian government’s 1995 decision to make the celebration of Black History Month a national annual event.

“Since the founding of BPAO in 2007 by Dr. Miriam Rossi, the association has advocated for improving the health of people in Black communities in Ontario, and implemented programs that encourage and facilitate Black youth to pursue a career in medicine,” said Dr. Mojola Omole, president of the BPAO. “Many of our members are distinguished Black physicians and exceptional educators who have not only had a huge impact on the field of medicine, but have also supported Black doctors in their fields. Additionally, we have outstanding medical students and residents who possess leadership, adaptability and problem-solving skills that make them beacons of inspiration for future medical professionals. We are beyond proud to honour these exemplary Black physicians and celebrate Black medical learners at this inaugural gala event.” 

2024 Black Excellence Awards

In addition to the recognition of the “First Black” honourees, several awards will be presented at the event. The BPAO will shine a spotlight on individuals and organizations that have not only made significant contributions to their communities and industries but have also embodied the spirit of joy, positivity and empowerment within the Black community.

The Excellence in Teaching Award honours educators, particularly distinguished Black physicians in Ontario, for their exceptional dedication, innovation and impact in medical education. Honourees not only foster inclusivity and equity but also inspire critical thinking and advocate for equity within deserving communities. Furthermore, their commitment to lifelong learning and professional development enhances medical education standards. The nominees for this award include:

  • Dr. Natasha Johnson, a Pediatrician and Adolescent Medicine Specialist, serves as an Associate Professor at McMaster University. In addition to her clinical and teaching roles, she holds multiple leadership positions at McMaster University, including the inaugural Associate Chair of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion. Dr. Johnson is a dedicated advocate and mentor for diverse learners and marginalized populations, tirelessly working to centre their voices in education and healthcare. 
  • Dr. Denice Lewis, a Family Doctor and Curriculum Director at the University of Ottawa, is dedicated to providing inpatient primary care to children and youth with mental health needs at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). She received a grant as Curriculum Director to enhance social accountability and anti-racism efforts in Family Medicine, leading to innovative modules aimed at addressing racism in healthcare. 
  • Dr. Chibere Ogbuneke, a Family Physician in Sudbury, Ontario, serves as the International Medical Graduate (IMG) Coordinator at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) University. He leads the development of a crucial IMG curriculum that provides comprehensive support for IMGs. His efforts are particularly impactful in empowering Black learners throughout the province. 
  • Dr. Mireille Norris, an Internist and Geriatrician at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, also serves as an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto. In 2020, she was appointed Faculty Lead for Black and Indigenous medical learners and leads the Core Internal Medicine Black and Indigenous pathway at the University of Toronto’s Department of Medicine. Her dedication to underrepresented physician education grew from her work in recruiting and mentoring International Medical Graduates for the Hospitalist Training Program. Her mentorship of International Medical Graduates has propelled many to success in North America and Europe.
  • Dr. Modupe Tunde-Byass, a Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (UK) and The Royal College of Surgeons of Canada, actively serves at North York General Hospital and holds the position of Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Toronto. She is the inaugural President of the Black Physicians of Canada (BPC) and is dedicated to advocating for Black learners and mentoring future Obstetricians and Gynecologists, making her a distinguished role model in physician mentorship and career development. 

The Trailblazer Awards recognize pioneering Black immigrant doctors from Nigeria and the Caribbean who came to Ontario for their medical education as students, residents and fellows. For decades, their stories of isolation, discrimination and resilience have largely gone untold. Despite these hardships, they built a robust network of physician-educators, often serving in rural and remote regions of the province. Their legacy continues to fuel organizations like the Canadian Association of Nigerian Physicians and Dentists (CANPAD) and the Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario (BPAO).

Some of the honourees include:

  • Dr. Murtala Abdurrahman 
  • Dr. Ernest Salmon
  • Dr. Lamidi Oyewumi
  • Dr. Julius Agboola
  • Dr. Amos Akinbiyi 
  • Dr. Olayiwola Kassim 
  • Dr. Olufemi Ayeni Sr. 
  • Dr. Adegboyega Akinyele
  • Dr. Barry Isaac 

In memoriam:

  • Dr. Titus Owolabi
  • Dr. Adebusola Onayemi
  • Dr. Charles Omole 
  • Dr. Douglas Salmon  
  • Dr. PK Joseph 

The Learner Leadership Award recognizes outstanding medical students and residents for exemplary leadership. The recipient fosters collaboration, advocacy, and service to address healthcare challenges and positively impact patients and communities. The nominees for this award include: 

  • Dr. Semir Bulle, a psychiatry resident, has co-founded groups advocating for police reform and equitable healthcare. He’s a mentor, speaker on mental health crisis intervention, and promoter of key community resources. His nomination for this award highlights his qualities as a team player, hard worker, and humble activist, driven by a passion for improving vulnerable communities.
  • Dr. Zainab Doleeb, a second-year OB/GYN resident at the University of Toronto, is a passionate advocate with a background in International Development Studies. She’s involved in global health research, refugee education, and equity initiatives within the medical community. Recently, she has been actively engaged in government advocacy, particularly focusing on Sudanese refugees, showcasing her dedication as a global change-maker.
  • Dr. Julianah Oguntala’s advocacy for diversity echoes through her work. Steering the financial direction of the Black Medical Students Association and mentoring through the CASPER Program, she embodies compassionate leadership. Her past role as chair of the BMSAC and her initiatives against anti-Black racism have significantly influenced the medical community. 
  • Dr. Chantal Phillips is a first-year resident in Public Health at the University of Ottawa. She’s been a pivotal leader in the Black community, addressing anti-Black racism, supporting Black medical students, and spearheading initiatives like a PPE distribution program and a medical school fee waiver program for low-income applicants. Her dedication to community needs makes her an exceptional candidate for this award.

The BPAO will also announce the winner of the Corporate Ally Award which celebrates corporations demonstrating exceptional commitment to advancing Black health initiatives, surpassing traditional Corporate Social Responsibility efforts. They invest in community health programs, research, and education, addressing health disparities and promoting equity in healthcare. The nominees are the Canadian Medical Association, MD Financial Management Inc., Scotiabank and Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA). 

The inaugural BPAO Black Joy Awards Gala will take place on June 15, 2024 at 6:00 p.m. at the Globe and Mail Centre (351 King Street East) in Toronto. For more information: 

For more information about the BPAO and to learn more about becoming a member, visit Medical students can join the association at no cost. 

Media assets can be found here: 

About the Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario

The Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario (BPAO) works for the equitable representation of the Black population in medicine and ensuring that racialized health disparities are eliminated. The BPAO was founded in 2007 following an influx of Black physicians in the province coming into practice, and registered as a not-for-profit in 2015. We are the most established organization of Black physicians in the country and have supported the establishment of nascent provincial and national organizations, including the Black Physicians of Canada (BPC and the Black Medical Students’ Association of Canada (BMSAC). The BPAO sees a province where Black Ontarians are equitably represented in the field of medicine and racialized health disparities are eliminated. For more information, visit


Media contacts: 

Anita Wong/Cindy Watson 

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