Press Release: Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario hosts its 15th Annual Health Symposium

Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario (BPAO) Calls for Medical Professionals and Students in the Black Community to Join its 15th Annual Health Symposium

Continuation and expansion of initiatives including Network for Advancing Black Medical Learners, Remote Hub launches across Ontario and province-wide rollout of its summer employment program for Black medical students


Toronto, ON — February 14, 2024 — The Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario (BPAO), the most established organization of Black physicians in the country, today announced it will be hosting its 15th Annual Health Symposium in Toronto on February 24, 2024. Physicians, residents and medical students from across Ontario will gather – in person or online – at the hybrid event to delve into critical health matters and their impact on the Black community. 

This year’s Symposium topics include changing health via philanthropy, breast cancer screening for Black Women, Skin of colour, Black youth health, and institutionalized sexism and racism in hematology. 

The BPAO will also host its inaugural BPAO Awards Recognition Dinner on June 15, 2024, which will recognize those who have done outstanding work in their communities and in their field. 

Additionally, the BPAO will present its second invite-only Dean’s breakfast that brings together Deans of medicine from across Ontario’s medical education ecosystem to discuss ways to continue innovative best practices. This year’s focus is to review the progress of the Network for Advancing Black Medical Learners (N-ABL), a BPAO initiative established in 2020 to ensure Black medical learners (students and residents) are better supported throughout their healthcare education process while navigating the intersecting challenges that impact Black learners. The Deans will assess N-ABL through a six-pillar framework: curriculum; mentorship; wellness; pathways for reporting incidents of racism and mistreatment; data collection, monitoring and evaluation; and, transition from learner to physician. On January 31, 2024, the Council of Ontario Faculties of Medicine confirmed its financial support of N-ABL for the upcoming academic year. This is their second year supporting this essential program. 

“BPAO’s initiatives are developed to support Black physicians, improve health outcomes of the Black healthcare community and set students up for success with the goal of increasing the number of much-needed Black physicians working within communities,” said Dr. Andrew Thomas, President of the BPAO. “Despite being the third largest minority group in Canada, Black communities are considerably underrepresented in the health care sector. It took 15 years to increase representation of Black physicians in Ontario from 1.4 per cent to 2.3 per cent, despite being 4.7 per cent of the province’s population. Through our programs, we hope to continue to correct this underrepresentation and eradicate existing barriers at every level of medicine.”


Making a Difference in Ontario through Key Initiatives

Since its last Symposium, the BPAO has launched many significant initiatives with successes seen across the areas of physician support, Black medical training and within the patient community. Many of these programs will have wider launches in 2024: 

  1. Launch of BPAO Remote Hubs across Ontario – In 2023, the BPAO launched its remote hubs in Ottawa and Sudbury. With physician burnout and suicides on the rise, and Black physicians feeling isolated, this support is key for rural teams that are under resourced and overloaded with patient caseloads. In 2022, a BPAO member survey showed that almost 70 per cent of respondents self-reported they had experienced burnout in the past year. These remote hubs are crucial as they create a necessary community of support for BPAO doctors outside of the Greater Toronto Area. The hubs also foster teamwork and innovation. In collaboration with medical schools, community health centre (CHC) partners and corporate allies, these hubs can more adequately address needs for culturally appropriate care for Black patients. In 2024, remote hubs will be launched in London (March 20), Hamilton and Kingston.

    With the help of Ontario Health, the local hub in Sudbury is looking to address the pressing needs of the Black Francophone community in Hearst that often has to travel hours to Thunder Bay to receive care.


  1. Support of Women Refugees – In the summer of 2023, the BPAO provided support during the refugee health crisis in Toronto, including providing health kits and health checks by BPAO medical residents and international medical graduates at the Black Creek CHC. In November, the BPAO hosted a Black Health Talk dedicated to the well-being of refugee women where experts delved into the heart of women’s health, Black health and mental health; discussed access to healthcare; and shared resources available to women in the refugee community. Listen to this important discussion with BPAO’s past President Dr. Onye Nnorom and Executive Director Chenai Kadungure.


  1. Community Health Centre Education (CHCE) Program – With very few Black physicians working in CHCs that predominantly serve the Black population, the BPAO launched this inaugural nine-week summer employment program in partnership with the University of Toronto (U of T)’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine, U of T’s Black Medical Students Association and Black Health Alliance. First and second year Black medical students at the U of T applied to be placed at one of five CHCs that mainly serves Black clientele in the summer of 2023. These CHCs included Black Creek, TAIBU, Women’s Health in Women’s Hands, Durham and Parkdale Queen West.

    Students had an opportunity to immerse themselves in CHC operations; gain experience in giving care to a racialized community; learn about the diverse needs of clients within the CHC; and identify the intersections of social determinants of health impacting patient health, access to care and quality of life.

    Toyemi Opeoluwa-Calebs, a former BPAO administrative assistant, was one of the students to go through the CHCE program in 2023. According to Opeoluwa-Calebs, “Over the past summer, I had the opportunity to witness firsthand the seamless integration of primary care and allied health services, ensuring patients receive comprehensive care for both their immediate and long-term health needs. The diverse multicultural staff played a pivotal role in facilitating effective communication with patients from various backgrounds, empowering me to better understand and cater to the unique needs of immigrant and racialized populations. This transformative experience has left an indelible mark on my ongoing journey through medical school.” 

    In 2024, the program will be rolled out across all medical schools in Ontario. Additionally, the BPAO is seeking a faculty mentor to support this year’s cohort. The call for applications begins on February 19, 2024. For more information, visit https://bpao.org/chce-2024.


  1. BPAO’s Grant Recipients Continue to Help Eliminate Racialized Health Disparities – Grant recipients from 2022 have created programs that help build the framework for best practices, one of which was showcased at last year’s Symposium.

    In 2024, another grant recipient will roll out its program province-wide. Community Hypertension Outcomes Improvement by Computerized Education Seminars for the Black Community (CHOICE) is a program to improve the nutritional health literacy of cardiovascular disease, the second leading cause of death in Canada. Risk factors are more prevalent in Black Canadians partly because Black patients with hypertension do not receive the right information. CHOICE provides culturally relevant education through free virtual seminars for Black and Indigenous medical learners focusing on Black health and nutrition. These learners then work with Black Canadians living with hypertension who attend the TAIBU CHC to improve their health literacy and empower these patients to make informed decisions on dietary habits and lifestyle choices. 

The Black Physician Grants and Research Committee (BPGRC) of the BPAO is inviting research grant applications from Black physicians actively engaged in medical practice or research. Those interested in applying can submit their proposals through the online application form. Applications are accepted year-round with quarterly approvals (see FAQ).

“Racial concordance is critical in the Black community,” said Kadungure. “The BPAO grants support our mission to cultivate a network of training and practicing Black physicians and to improve health outcomes of Black Ontarians. Black patients should be able to get care from Black healthcare providers who understand their experience. These projects are pivotal in improving services and care to the Black community.”

Speaker highlights at the Symposium:

  • Keynote: Changing health via philanthropy – Jennifer Bernard, President and CEO, SickKids Foundation 
  • Breast Cancer Screening Updates for Black Women – Dr. Neil Isaac, Radiologist at North York General Hospital
  • Institutionalized Sexism and Racism in Hematology – Dr. Michelle Sholzberg, Division Head of Hematology-Oncology and Medical Director of the Coagulation Laboratory at St. Michael’s Hospital
  • Skin of Colour – Dr. Yvette Miller-Monthrope, a board-certified Dermatologist and Dermatopathologist 
  • How to Better Understand and Care for Black Youth and their Health – Dr. Chantal Phillips, Resident, Family Medicine Stream – Public Health and Preventive Medicine Program, University of Ottawa

The BPAO’s 15th Annual Health Symposium will be held at the University of Toronto’s Medical Sciences Building at 1 King’s College Circle, Toronto, on February 24, 2024. BPAO members receive discounted ticketed prices. The Symposium is an accredited Continuing Professional Development (CPD) event. For more information on the accreditation awarded by the U of T’s CPD, the full agenda and tickets, visit https://bpao.org/bpaos-15th-annual-health-symposium/

The inaugural BPAO Awards Recognition Gala will take place on June 15, 2024 at the Globe and Mail Centre in Toronto. For more information contact info@bpao.org.  

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. 

Media assets can be found here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1hEV-Gf-qjJMoY3SITtUSS_0Twk40cnKK?usp=drive_link 

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.

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Media contacts:

Anita Wong/Cindy Watson
BPAO@stratamp.com 

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