Advocating for Equality: BPAO’s Mission to Boost Representation of Black Physicians
The Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario (BPAO) is actively championing the cause of Black physicians, addressing the significant underrepresentation of Black communities in the healthcare sector. Despite being the third-largest minority group in Canada, Black individuals constitute only 2.3% of Ontario’s physicians, a stark contrast to their 4.7% share of the province’s population. The BPAO is steadfast in its commitment to rectify this disparity, recognizing systemic anti-Black racism as a root cause that impedes access and negatively impacts health outcomes for Black Canadians.
A pivotal initiative in this endeavor is the Network For Advancing Black Medical Learners (N-ABL), launched in 2020 in collaboration with Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) leaders from seven Ontario medical schools. N-ABL serves as a knowledge exchange hub, focusing on six key pillars: curriculum, mentorship, pathways for reporting incidents of racism and mistreatment, wellness, data collection, monitoring and evaluation, and the transition from learner to physician. By addressing these areas, the initiative aims to provide comprehensive support to Black medical learners, including students, residents, and junior faculty.
One notable avenue for advancing opportunities is the Community Health Centre Education Program (CHCE), a nine-week summer employment initiative founded by BPAO’s Dr. Dominick Shelton. Open to first and second-year Black medical students in Ontario, CHCE offers a unique opportunity to work at a community health centre (CHC) primarily serving Black patients. Participants engage in patient care, operational tasks, and collaborative work within an interprofessional team, ensuring a well-rounded experience.
Moreover, participants are encouraged to create or contribute significantly to a project of their choice, receiving ongoing feedback and guidance from assigned supervisors. The program includes lectures focused on the role of CHCs, healthcare in the Black community, and insights into the national and provincial healthcare systems. The culmination of the program involves a symposium where students present their completed projects, fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement.
In addition to nurturing future physicians, the BPAO, in collaboration with the Black Health Alliance, spearheads the Black Health and Wellness Initiative (BHWI). This initiative aims to enhance community collaboration and progress, fostering improved health engagement and outcomes among Ontario’s Black populations. By embedding itself within these communities, BHWI seeks to establish enduring relationships, provide much-needed support and resources, and serve as a beacon for the potential of equitable and comprehensive future healthcare.