Feb 22, 2024

Building momentum for change: DFCM’s Black Health Advisory Table

About DFCM, Education, Faculty

DFCM’s first Black Health Advisory Table is working to support Black faculty and learners and advance health in Black communities

Headshots of Dr. Melanie Henry, Dr. Denise O'Neil Green, and Chantal Sorhaindo
“First, health inequities are avoidable differences between populations. Pre-existing health inequalities for Black populations mark a failure of our social and health policies, and a failure of our health system to meet the needs of all members of the public. Our one-size-fits-all health system has not delivered for Black populations and we have not done enough to change that.”
- Black Health Plan, Ontario Health, Wellesley Institute, Black Health Alliance

In recognition of the racialized health inequities that have long been features of the lives of Ontario’s Black population, and the need to support Black faculty members and medical learners, the Department of Family and Community Medicine (DFCM) has established its first Black Health Advisory Table (BHAT).

The BHAT, which held its inaugural meeting this January, is focused on advancing health in Black communities and advising the department on ways to support Black faculty and learners.

“This is an important step and signals how important Black health and addressing anti-Black racism is to the department,” says Dr. Melanie Henry, DFCM’s Vice-Chair of Community and Partnerships and BHAT co-Chair.

“Our first and most critical job is building a solid community and safe space for Black faculty members, learners, staff, and other community members to gather and find a sense of belonging. There is so much great work happening already, but much of it is happening in isolation. For our efforts to be scalable and sustainable, we need a strong community foundation.”

Established by Dr. Henry, who is also a community family doctor at Health for All, the Markham Family Medicine Teaching Unit, Dr. Denise O’Neil Green, DFCM’s embedded EDI consultant, and Chantal Sorhaindo, a nurse practitioner with St. Michael’s Hospital Family Health Team at Unity Health Toronto, the BHAT builds on work initiated by Dr. Onye Nnorom.

The team hopes to advise the department on matters including Black data governance, Black patient care, Black community partnerships, recruitment of Black faculty, staff and medical learners, Black career trajectories, and mentorship.

“For me, the organic mentorship opportunities are going to be one of the most valuable parts of this group,” explains Dr. Henry, whose own experience of going through medical training without Black role models, or even a Black preceptor, reflects the reality for many Black learners in medicine.

“There is a profound difference between being the only Black person in the room and being surrounded by people who can appreciate some of the challenges you come across as a Black person in medical school or residency or while starting out in your career.”

The BHAT will also be informing curriculum development and renewal related to Black health, such as presenting clinical cases on racialized issues without perpetuating stereotypes and contributing to harmful assumptions and decision-making.

Addressing anti-Black racism in healthcare and medical education is a considerable undertaking and there are no quick fixes, especially when we are talking about changing large institutions across our health system, explains Dr. Henry.

“For us to participate in this transformative change we have to establish a strong, sustainable foundation on which to build momentum and collaboration. That is what we are trying to achieve with the BHAT, and it is a wonderful opportunity to be part of that transformation journey.”

If you are interested in learning more about the BHAT or participating in a future meeting, please contact Dr. Henry. All interested parties—faculty members, learners, staff, and other community members—are welcome.