Embracing Black Joy: Highlights from a Night of Celebration and Recognition

As a vibrant tribute to Black excellence and community spirit, the Black Physicians Association of Ontario hosted its inaugural gala on June 15. This highly anticipated event, themed “Black Joy,” took place at The Globe and Mail Centre in Toronto, kicking off at 6:00 PM and continuing into the night until midnight.

The inaugural Black Joy gala attracted over 200 attendees, creating an atmosphere buzzing with excitement and camaraderie. From the outset, guests were welcomed warmly, setting the stage for an unforgettable night filled with celebration and recognition.

Awards and Honors

One of the biggest highlights of the night was the awards ceremony, where outstanding achievements within the community were celebrated. Trailblazers receiving the “First Black Awards” included Dr. Zainab Abdurrahman, Dr. Everton Gooden, Dr. Lisa Robinson, Dr. Dominick Shelton, and Dr. Olufemi Ayeni. These pioneers were recognized for their groundbreaking contributions that have paved the way for future generations.

Additionally, the gala featured the presentation of the Black Excellence Awards. Dr. Zainab Doleeb was honored with the Learner Leadership Award, recognizing her as an exemplary leader among medical students and residents. Equally deserving was Dr. Mireille Norris, who received the prestigious Excellence in Teaching Award, which honors distinguished Black physicians in Ontario for their exceptional dedication, innovation, and impact in medical education.

Furthermore, the gala recognized MD Financial Management, Scotiabank, and the Canadian Medical Association with the Corporate Ally Award for their exceptional commitment to advancing Black health initiatives.

A poignant moment of the night was the “In memoriam” session, where the community came together to honor and remember the lives and contributions of distinguished Black physicians who have passed away. This segment underscored the profound legacy and impact of those who paved the way for future generations, including Dr. Titus Owolabi, Dr. Adebusola Onayemi, Dr. Charles Omole, Dr. Douglas Salmon, and Dr. PK Joseph.

Celebrating Together

Throughout the night, guests enjoyed great food, music, and each other’s company, fostering moments of joy, laughter, and heartfelt connections. The Black Joy gala was a testament to the strength and unity of the community, celebrating achievements while looking towards a future of continued excellence.

As the Black Physicians Association of Ontario extends its gratitude to the sponsors and attendees, BPAO invites everyone to relive the most memorable moments through the gala highlights video and view the photobooth gallery:

Thank you to everyone who attended and contributed to making this inaugural gala an unforgettable evening. Your support and enthusiasm continue to inspire excellence. The Black Physicians Association of Ontario, eagerly looks forward to seeing everyone next year for another night of celebration and recognition. Until then, the pursuit of excellence and making a difference remains steadfast.

See you next year!

Insights from the Black Excellence Award Winners

Dr. Mireille Norris on the Excellence in Teaching Award:

What does winning this award mean to you personally and professionally?

This award means a lot to me personally. I started medical school in 1988 after applying 3 times in the course of 6 years. When I started school, I was the only student in a class of 172, although later two students joined me. I left Quebec to train in Toronto where I felt more welcomed. Although I always had a passion for teaching and knew how I impacted many learners, I often did not get recognition as many of my learners were racialized and belonged to the Hospitalist Training Program which is not an accredited program with the Ministry of Health. Having fewer residents and medical students affected my ability to get recognition and promotion. Professionally, such an award is crucial. When the people you report to see that you are recognized in that capacity, it impacts how you are seen and sought for academic advancement. In turn, by being present at tables where medical education is discussed at the highest level, nationally, provincially, and at the executive of the university allows me to directly impact Black learners and other marginalized learners.

Can you share a memorable moment or highlight from your journey that led to this achievement?

I believe that taking on the challenge to be the inaugural faculty lead for the DOM Black and Indigenous learners was crucial to launching me on a path towards being recognized as a medical education leader. Also, joining national and provincial networks advocating for Black learners such as the Network for the Advancement of Black Learners and the Committee on Black Innovation and Advancement, and launching the Sunnybrook Program to Access Research Knowledge for Black and Indigenous learners contributed to the recognition that I could impact learners’ education at the highest level. Applying for and receiving education grants from the Department of Medicine and Sunnybrook, as well as the Black Research Network, has allowed me to partner with education scientists to involve, recruit, and guide medical students in education research and quality improvement research.

What advice would you give to others striving for excellence in teaching?

I would advise to participate in continuous faculty development at least, take courses, certificates, master’s degree in medical education. Collaborate with education scientists and Black researchers to leverage your knowledge and be successful at grants to support education scholarship. Also, take chances to take on medical education leadership roles at the University, provincial, and national levels. Consider mentoring Black learners at all levels, pre-med, undergraduate, and post-graduate medical education.

How do you plan to continue making an impact in your field following this recognition?

I am even more motivated to continue improving my skills in medical education scholarship. I am collaborating with Dr. Marcus Law at the UGME to improve the Black Health Curriculum. I am recruiting Black learners at the UGME and PGME to partner with me in this endeavor. I also plan to apply for the Education Scholar Program next year to further my skills and prepare myself for future medical education leadership roles as my role at the Department of Medicine will terminate in December 2024.

Dr. Zainab Doleeb on the Learner Leadership Award:

What does winning this award mean to you personally and professionally?

Receiving this award for my work on learner wellness, EDI education initiatives, and advocacy for Sudanese refugees was one of the proudest moments of my life. Standing on stage facing a crowd full of community members, many of whom taught and trained me over the last six years, was incredibly special. It was a lovely and welcoming space, and I felt deeply honored to be recognized by people I consider as family.

Can you share a memorable moment or highlight from your journey that led to this achievement?

I traveled to Ottawa in January to speak with Minister of Immigration Marc Miller about the failures of his office (IRCC) and the year-long delays on policies for Sudanese refugees. We discussed the heartache the diaspora has faced watching the war and famine unfold, as well as the discriminatory policies, fees, and bureaucratic barriers that the IRCC imposed only upon Sudanese refugees. It was crucial to voice my community’s concerns in the face of rampant political apathy.

What advice would you give to others striving for excellence in learner leadership?

Two pieces of advice. Firstly, find a cause you genuinely care about, work passionately on it, and execute it to the fullest. Secondly, always strive to pay it forward. Whatever support or good you’ve received, pass it on to others and help them along their journey.

How do you plan to continue making an impact in your field following this recognition?

I have been involved in refugee work throughout medical school, collaborating with local resettlement agencies and fundraising for transitional housing. I plan to continue this work and practice as an OBGYN in a community that serves many newcomers and refugees. I also hope to one day work with Doctors Without Borders.

I encourage everyone to continue reading about Sudan, contacting their MPs and supporting Sudanese charities and humanitarian organizations such as Sadagaat.

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