BPAO Hosts Its 14th Annual Health Symposium

Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario Extends Invitation to Medical Professionals and Students in the Black Community to Join its 14th Annual Health Symposium

Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario Extends Invitation to Medical Professionals and Students in the Black Community to Join its 14th Annual Health Symposium

Event centred on health-related matters and their impact on Black Ontarians, with a focus on connecting peers and changing the landscape for Black physicians and trainees

Toronto, ON — February 1, 2023 — The Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario (BPAO), the most established organization of Black physicians in the country, today announced it will be hosting its 14th Annual Health Symposium in Toronto on February 25, 2023. The annual event brings together physicians from across Ontario with an opportunity to hear from respected speakers, engage in important discussions about health and meet with medical peers from the Black community.

The BPAO works for the equitable representation of the Black population in medicine and to ensure racialized health disparities are eliminated. Mentors help traditionally underrepresented groups overcome systemic and direct racism that impacts the ability to enter the medical profession, care for patients, advance careers, and hold leadership positions in healthcare.

According to Statistics Canada, Black Canadians represent 2.9 per cent of the country’s overall population, but represent 18 per cent of Canadians living in poverty. Chronic under-researching means there is scarce data on health disparities for Black populations. Furthermore, demographic data indicates a 50 per cent underrepresentation of Black physicians in Ontario. It took 15 years to increase representation of Black physicians in Ontario to 2.3 per cent from 1.4 per cent. At this rate, it will take 40 years to achieve parity. 

“In Ontario — and throughout Canada — Black physicians as well as trainees are highly underrepresented,” said Dr. Andrew Thomas, president of BPAO. “We believe health outcomes of Black Ontarians can be improved with an engaged community of Black physicians, as well as with forums where Black physicians can connect. We’re proud to present this opportunity for respected BPAO members and colleagues from across the province to engage and learn from each other. While this event is just one of many initiatives for the BPAO, it is a very important one.”

In addition to underrepresentation, Black medical trainees and physicians face many obstacles. A recent BPAO survey found that nearly 70% Black physicians and trainees in Ontario reported negative experiences based on race.

“Black physicians frequently feel alienated within traditional healthcare settings which contributes to a sense of isolation and higher rates for burnout,” said Dr. Husam Abdel-Qadir, Director, Continuing Professional Development, BPAO. “We hope this conference allows us to address both issues.”

Making a Difference in Ontario
Since the launch of the BPAO, there have been many significant initiatives and successes seen across the areas of Black medical training and within the patient community, including:

  • COVID-19: Through the organization’s Black Health Vaccine Initiative (BHVI), in collaboration with Black Health Alliance, over 75,600 doses (and counting) have been administered across municipalities in Ontario, including Toronto, Peel, Windsor-Essex, Ottawa and Durham. The BPAO has provided 326 health clinics across the province.
  • The number of Black medical students in the province has increased. E.g. between 2018 and 2021, the Temerty Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto has seen an increase in both the number of Black applicants (76%) and enrolment (50%).
  • The BPAO has worked with every medical school in Ontario, a variety of hospitals, and many other Ontario medical institutions to provide advice, expertise, and connections to further diversity and inclusion in the province.
  • Research, leadership and mentorship areas have all been strengthened.
  • Through member grants, BPAO has supported initiatives such as the Diversity and Inclusion in Cardiology Education (DICE) program for students who identify as Black or Indigenous, a topic that will be discussed at the Symposium. 

“BPAO’s work affects not only physicians, medical residents and fellows, but also patients. We support Ontario’s healthcare system and the medical profession overall by acting as a point of contact and voice of advocacy for Black-related issues,” added Dr. Thomas. 

Confidence and trust for health in the Black community continues to grow through the BPAO’s collaborations with organizations such as the Black Health Alliance and the Black Health Equity Data group, with a focus on advocacy for better care for Black patients, for the collection of race-based data in healthcare, for the development of a Black health strategy for COVID-19, and more. In January 2023 the BPAO launched Black Health Talks, a patient-focused online health seminar series, with the first session focused on hypertension. Other topics, including women’s wellness and healthy relationships and healthy boundaries, will be featured throughout 2023.  

“As an undergraduate student, I was encouraged to attend my first Symposium before I even considered applying to medical school,” said Dr. Thomas. “The association enabled me to access and leverage countless resources I would not have known about otherwise. With the support and guidance of mentors, I eventually followed a path that led me to pre-med and medical school and a family practice. I’m proud to be leading the BPAO – an organization that helped me so very much – as we continue to assist and encourage Black trainees and physicians throughout the province.”

According to Dr. Mireille Norris, assistant professor at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto and a geriatrician at Sunnybrook Hospital, “BPAO offers you a community of support, inspiration and mentorship. BPAO membership also offers opportunities for professional growth, advocacy and access to resources to advance research to promote and serve the Black community.”

Attendees at this year’s Health Symposium will benefit from a knowledgeable and inspiring line-up of speakers. Additionally, they’ll have a chance to get updates on BPAO and its ongoing work.  

Speaker highlights of the Health Symposium include:

  • Keynote: Dr. Sean Wharton: Weight – Respecting Healthy Bodies and Treatment when Needed. Dr. Wharton’s research focuses on bariatric medicine and type 2 diabetes. He is the co-lead author of the Canadian Obesity Guidelines.
  • Dr. Nicole Woods: Re-thinking the Integration of Basic and Clinical Sciences in Medical Education
  • Dr. Mena Gewarges and Dr. Tahira Redwood: DICE is on a roll: Empowering Black and Indigenous learners through mentorship and allyship within the Division of Cardiology
  • Dr. Nothando Swan and Mr. Allan Smart: Providing Opioid Agonist Therapy Both Inside and Outside of RAAM Clinics
  • Dr. Nav Persaud: Equitable Pandemic Recovery: Taking Action Now

The full agenda can be found here.

The BPAO’s 14th Annual Health Symposium will be held at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, on February 25, 2023. BPAO members receive discounted ticketed prices; additionally, early-bird pricing for tickets is available for all attendees until February 19. For tickets and more details, please visit https://bpao.glueup.com/event/bpaos-14th-annual-health-symposium-66309/.

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

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 https://bpao.org.


Media contacts:Cindy Watson/Anita Wong

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