New scholarship programs at Women’s College Hospital are supporting and elevating students from diverse communities to shape a more equitable health science sector
August 24, 2022 – With a special focus on removing obstacles for individuals from underrepresented communities, the Emily Stowe Scholars Program (ESSP) at Women’s College Hospital (WCH) has a collective mission to engage, retain and support diverse scholars throughout their career trajectories. The program funds Black, Indigenous, racialized, Two-Spirit, trans, non-binary and persons living with disabilities who have been systemically and historically excluded in healthcare and health-science career trajectories.
People from diverse communities continue to be underrepresented at all levels in the health sciences. Approximately 41 percent of Canada Research Chairs identify as women, 22.8 percent as people of colour, six percent as a person living with a disability and 3.4 percent as Indigenous. Put simply, health science often fails to reflect Canada’s demographic diversity. This lack of equity stimies innovation and prevents the research advancements necessary to enhance patient care and improve the health system for all.
For its inaugural year, the ESSP welcomed 21 students to participate in WCH’s Summer Student Research Opportunities. These students were partnered with WCH scientists providing mentorship and support as they develop hands-on experience in the health sciences. In addition to mentorship and networking opportunities, students were exposed to unique learning areas, including Indigenous health, and partnerships with other Toronto academic hospitals. Additionally, the program supports and funds five fellows – a mix of emerging leaders and established clinician scientists at WCH. “Support for diverse students can provide the inspiration to embark on a scientific career and lead to the next generation of scientists,” says Dr. Rulan Parekh, WCH’s VP of Academics and a clinician scientist. “For fellows, funding provides support to focus on mentorship, new areas of research and high-risk high-reward science.”
The Centre for Wise Practices in Indigenous Health (CWP-IH) at WCH offers ZKA’AN NI-BMIWDOOWIN GCHI-KINOOMAADWINAN, Building the Fire, Walking with Medicine, a two-week program for Indigenous students in grades nine and 10 with an interest in exploring healthcare opportunities. In collaboration with the University of Toronto’s Office of Health Professions Student Affairs and the Office of Indigenous Health, ZKA’AN NI-BMIWDOOWIN GCHI-KINOOMAADWINAN provides youth with culturally safe and trauma-informed programming and opportunities to build long-lasting relationships from within the program. With greater exposure to Indigenous leadership, knowledges, governance systems and healing practices reflected in the environment around them, Indigenous youth will be empowered to carve their own meaningful paths forward, walking with confidence, a greater sense of connection, purpose, and community.
“We want to honour the students and the individual strengths they bring to the program,” says Nadia McLaren, manager of Indigenous Health Education at WCH. “To begin and further conversations around what wellness means to them and their communities, which are topics they may not necessarily cover, as diverse, Indigenous learners in mainstream education systems.”
We need innovative and dynamic health research that reflects the realities patients face on a day-to-day basis to drive change in healthcare. The scholarship programs at WCH are reshaping the future of healthcare, making it more equitable, inclusive and accessible to improve health outcomes for everyone.
For further information, please contact
Communications Advisor | Strategic Communications
Women’s College Hospital
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About Women’s College Hospital
For more than 100 years Women’s College Hospital (WCH) has been developing revolutionary advances in healthcare. Today, WCH is a world leader in the health of women and Canada’s leading, academic ambulatory hospital. A champion of health equity, WCH advocates for the health of all women from diverse cultures and backgrounds and ensures their needs are reflected in the care they receive. It focuses on delivering innovative solutions that address Canada’s most pressing issues related to population health, patient experience and system costs.
About the Emily Stowe Society & Emily Stowe Scholars Program
Recognizing the need for greater diversity within health research, the Women’s College Hospital Foundation established the Emily Stowe Society in 2020 to create and fund a scholars’ program. The Emily Stowe Society was named in honour of Dr. Emily Stowe, Canada’s first woman doctor. Dr. Stowe aided in establishing Woman’s Medical College in 1883, Toronto’s first medical school for women. It is through the tremendous generosity of this unique donor community – supporters committed to breaking down barriers for those underrepresented in the health sciences – that the Emily Stowe Scholars Program (ESSP) students and fellows are supported. The mission of the Emily Stowe Scholar Program is to engage, retain and support the advancement of diverse persons by developing pathways that respect diverse experiences, knowledge systems and skillsets from early learning throughout their career trajectories.
About the Centre for Wise Practices in Indigenous Health
The Centre for Wise Practices in Indigenous Health (CWP-IH) is a multi-pronged program and team of Indigenous clinicians, Knowledge Keepers, and community leaders within Women’s College Hospital committed to the health and well-being of all First Nations, Inuit and Métis individuals, families and communities.
We believe in a health system that acknowledges and respects Indigenous identity, strengths and sovereignty, while providing meaningful, culturally safe care, free of racism and discrimination—where Indigenous worldview(s) are recognized and valued.