Celebrating Black Leaders Who Are Creating the Future of Healthcare
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Black History Month reminds us of our collective responsibility to create space for stories and voices that have been historically neglected. During this month we focus our attention and uplift the voices and stories of Black colleagues providing transformative leadership in research and healthcare.
The Shift Health team is privileged to work with and learn from incredible Black researchers and healthcare providers whose work inspires and challenges us to do better.
In honour of Black History Month, we want to show our appreciation to four Black colleagues who are helping to create the future of healthcare by courageously confronting systemic racism and pointing the way toward justice, equity and transformation.
A huge thank you to Dr. Ingrid Waldron, Dr. Akwatu Khenti, Dr. Modupe Tunde-Byass and Dr. Everton Gooden, for allowing us to share their remarkable stories and also for presenting us with powerful perspectives on what it means to be a Black healthcare and research leader in Canada today.
Dr. Ingrid Waldron, Ph.D.
Professor and HOPE Chair in Peace and Health, Global Peace & Social Justice Program Department of History, Faculty of Humanities, McMaster University
“Since there are still so many gaps in the existing research and literature on Black health in Canada, being a Black health researcher today means that you can be creative, innovative, ground-breaking, and go where no one else has gone before. It means that you have an opportunity to create a blueprint or template for other Black health researchers to build on.”
Dr. Ingrid Waldron was born in Montreal, Quebec to Trinidadian parents. She is a Professor and HOPE Chair in Peace and Health in the Global Peace and Social Justice Program in the Department of History, Faculty of Humanities at McMaster University. From 2008 to 2021, she was a Professor in the Faculty of Health at Dalhousie University.
Dr. Waldron’s research, teaching and community advocacy work focus on the structural and environmental determinants of health and mental health disparities in Black, Indigenous, immigrant and refugee communities in Canada, including environmental racism, climate inequities, mental illness, and COVID-19.
She is the author of There’s Something in the Water: Environmental Racism in Indigenous and Black Communities (Fernwood Publishing), which was turned into a 2020 Netflix documentary of the same name. Her book received the 2020 Society for Socialist Studies Errol Sharpe Book Prize and the 2019 Atlantic Book Award for Scholarly Writing. She is the recipient of several other awards, including Research Canada’s Leadership in Advocacy Award (Individual Category), Dalhousie University’s President’s Research Excellence Award – Research Impact, the Dalhousie Faculty of Health Early Career Research Excellence Award, and Springtide Collective’s Advocate of the Year Award.
Dr. Waldron is also the founder and Director of the Environmental Noxiousness, Racial Inequities and Community Health Project (The ENRICH Project), the co-founder and Co-Director of the Canadian Coalition for Environmental and Climate Justice (CCECJ), and the co-founder and past Vice-President of Rural Water Watch. Her research and community advocacy work inspired the federal private members bill a National Strategy Respecting Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice (Bill C-230).
She is currently writing her next book titled From the Enlightenment to Black Lives Matter: The Impact of Racial Trauma on Mental Health in Black Communities, which will trace experiences of racial trauma in Black communities in North America and the UK from the colonial era to the present day.
Dr. Akwatu Khenti, Ph.D.
Special Advisor to the City of Toronto’s COVID-19 Equity Initiative and Chair of the Black Scientists’ Task Force on Vaccine Equity, Assistant Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Affiliate Scientist at Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)
“As a Black health researcher, I am heartened by growing recognition of issues related to anti-Black racism, especially recently increased representation at many levels, but still frustrated and troubled by the lack of policy and political support for the collection, analysis and public reporting of race based data (and inequities) in health care; without quantitative and qualitative evidence to benchmark the disparities and evaluate alternative responses, how can we be expected to make meaningful progress.”
Dr. Khenti is an Affiliate Scientist with the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research (IMHPR) at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and an Assistant Professor within the Dalla Lana School of Health. Dr. Khenti is formerly the Assistant Deputy Minister for Ontario’s Anti-Racism Directorate (2017-2020) as well as CAMH’s Director of Transformative Global Health. (1997-2017). He has a Ph.D. in Health Policy and Equity from York University.
Dr. Khenti is Special Advisor to the City of Toronto’s COVID-19 equity initiative and Chair of the Black Scientists’ Task Force on Vaccine Equity. The Task Force, which includes many of Canada’s top Black scientists involved in key aspects of vaccine development and Black public health, review the major concerns and issues around COVID-19 testing and levels of vaccine acceptance, and develop public health recommendations to effectively address any gaps or concerns within the community.
He has inspired many local efforts to improve Black mental health across Latin American and Caribbean communities through intensive substance abuse training and management competencies for mental health. He also developed an anti-stigma intervention in primary health care in Ontario and has co-led drug research capacity building for the past decade with the Inter-American Drug Control Commission (CICAD, OAS) involving 30 universities across Latin America and the Caribbean.
Dr. Khenti conducted cluster randomized trials in Toronto which demonstrated that mental health stigma could be reduced in primary health care settings through an organizational approach. He also co-led the development of easy-to-follow, culturally adapted cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) interventions for working with individuals of Latin American origin as well as those of African Caribbean origin (both English and French speaking). This CBT intervention has been applied with Vodou spiritual leaders in Haiti to assess whether it can strengthen the system of informal care. It is currently being updated to address COVID related stressors and anxieties.
Dr. Khenti also led the development of a specialized drug treatment and prevention programs for Black youth in Toronto, entitled the Substance Abuse Program for African and Caribbean Youth (SAPACCY). This program is currently being expanded across the province of Ontario. His doctoral research chronicled the effects of inequitable social determinants of health and systemic anti-Black racism on racialized gun violence in Toronto’s 140 neighborhoods from 2004-2014. It serves as a resource for ongoing efforts aimed at enhancing public safety and violence prevention in Toronto.
Dr. Modupe Tunde-Byass
President, Black Physicians of Canada (BPC)
Physician Lead, Early Pregnancy Assessment Clinic (EPAC), North York General Hospital
Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Toronto
Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Maternal Newborn Program
Staff Obstetrician and Gynaecologist. North York General Hospital
Co-Founder, Women’s Health Education Made Simple (WHEMS)
“Being a Black health researcher/leader means representing Black people in confronting the inequities in our healthcare system and working with co-conspirators and agents of change in identifying and amplifying the BLACK BRILLIANCE.”
Dr. Modupe Tunde-Byass is a Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of the UK and The Royal College of Surgeons of Canada. She completed her OBGYN training in the UK and Canada. She has been an active staff at North York General Hospital (NYGH) since 2004 and is a member of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity (EDI) committees at the NYGH and at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Toronto.
Dr. Tunde-Byass is the President of the Black Physicians of Canada (BPC), a national not-for-profit organization established in July 2020 after the death of Mr. George Floyd. The mission of the organization is to unite, support and empower Canadian Black physicians, physicians-in-training and the Black Community while strengthening leadership roles and amplifying Black voices and experiences within the Canadian healthcare system.
As the President of the Black Physicians of Canada, Dr. Tunde-Byass collaborates with National organizations in reviewing internal practices and policies related to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity. Additionally, she is involved with research around COVID-19 hesitancy and COVID-19 online mis/disinformation in Black communities and is the co-founder of Women’s Health Education Made Simple (WHEMS), an initiative that started in the pandemic to promote health literacy through online educational resources.
Dr. Tunde-Byass is also involved in key quality initiatives like increasing access to Vaginal Birth After Cesarean section and improving the care of women undergoing early pregnancy complications and losses. She has presented some of her research at international conferences and has publications in peer reviewed journals.
Dr. Everton Gooden
Division Head of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at North York General Hospital
Assistant Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Toronto
“Those of us in a position of leadership share a passion to perform at a high level in an effort to make our forebears proud, given that historically leadership opportunities were typically not offered to people of colour. We share a sense of responsibility to accept these roles given the sacrifices made by our forefathers in challenging systemic racism. Those who now have access to these privileged positions have a social responsibility to inform and educate in order to continue the journey of social and racial reckoning that will result in a better Canada for all its citizens.”
Dr. Everton Gooden is the Division Head of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at North York General Hospital and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Toronto. He has served as a Director of the North York General Hospital Foundation Board of Governors since 2010 and is the current Chair of the Governance and Inclusion Committee. He has served in a number of senior leadership positions which have included terms as Chief of Staff, Chair of the Medical Advisory Committee, President and Vice President of the Medical Staff Association. Dr. Gooden has received a number of awards including the Black Business and Professional Association Harry Jerome Trailblazer Award in 2017 and the Urban Hero Award from Metroland Media also in 2017. Most recently, he was awarded the University of Toronto Excellence in Community Based Teaching for 2021. Dr. Gooden currently serves as a Director of Face the Future Foundation which is involved with delivering lifesaving facial reconstructive surgery for disadvantaged young people around the world with complex facial deformities.