On Thursday, February 9th, the University of Toronto (U of T), unveiled plaques that honour and memorialize Dr. Alexander Augusta and Dr. Anderson Abbott, Canada’s first Black physicians. The event was held at Trinity College, the very school the two doctors attended.
Dr. Augusta was the first Black person to graduate from medical school and receive his medical license in Canada. He was an American who came to study in Toronto after being denied by the U.S. schools to which he applied. He went on to mentor Dr. Abbott, who became the first Canadian-born doctor. The two doctors both fought in the civil war, and contributed in meaningful and influential ways to the fight against racial inequities in their communities.
The event was coordinated by Dr. Nav Persaud and team, and had speeches from BPAO members Dr. Mojola Omole, Dr. Modupe Tunde-Byass, and Dr. Sean Wharton. Dr. Persaud came across the history in 2020, dove deep into the stories of the two doctors and searched for ways to honour and promote the history. Hosting this event in collaboration with U of T and Heritage Toronto, was one of those ways.
There were inspiring words from medical students Lydia Angarso of U of T’s Black Medical Students’ Association and Julianah Oguntala, Chair of the Black Medical Students’ Association of Canada.
Angarso shared her belief that the stories of the doctors illustrated a deeply rooted perseverance and what it means to be a physician, which she believes is to be an advocate.
The keynote address was from Columbia Professor and author, Heather Butts who shared about her journey to and through discovering Drs. Augusta and Abbott, and the serendipitous way that she and Dr. Persaud connected to elevate the history. Her research and writing played a major role in bringing their stories to the forefront, and left numerous physicians and learners wondering “why haven’t I heard about this?”
Each of the speeches from all who took the stage, embodied the work that the Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario strives toward, work that centers supporting physicians and sharing their stories, and community health and equity. Much like Drs. Augusta and Abbott, The BPAO continues to prioritize community progress through collaboratively bringing care and compassion to the environments that reflect those of our membership.
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