Black Medical Students Association of Canada AGM

Guest blog post by Abigail Barker

On April 1st, 2023, myself and six fellow Black medical students from the University of Saskatchewan attended the 4th Black Medical Students Association of Canada (BMSAC) Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Toronto. The BMSAC was formed by Dr Helen Teklemariam and Dr Yohanna Asghedom in 2020 to establish a national community with the goal of addressing the specific challenges that Black patients and healthcare professionals face. 150 Black medical students from all 17 Canadian medical schools convened at the Toronto Public Library for a day filled with learning opportunities, connection, and fun. The day started off early with a review of the progress made by each Black Medical Student Association (BMSA) chapter across the country. It was amazing to learn about the range of social events held by each chapter, as well as the advocacy initiatives addressing inequities experienced by Black patients and medical professionals. This was followed up by a series of informative presentations, including one focused on the Diversity and Inclusion in Cardiology Education (DICE) program, a mentorship program founded by Dr Mena Gewarges and Dr Tahira Redwood. Keynote speaker Paul Taylor, the former executive director of FoodShare Toronto and current co-CEO of Evenings & Weekends Consulting, delivered a thought-provoking speech on food insecurity and its links to systemic racism. Throughout the day, there were panel discussions on topics including wellness and student advocacy, particularly pertaining to the Black community. We were also given the opportunity to connect with each other through small group discussions on our personal experiences as Black medical students. It was a great feeling to look around the room and witness the direct result of the work that has been done to increase representation of Black people in medicine and I am grateful to the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine for its ongoing support and provision of funding to offset the cost to attend these events.   

The 2024 BMSAC AGM takes place in Montreal, Quebec in April.

CASCADES Summer Institute on Sustainable Health Systems

The national Summer Institute on Sustainable Health Systems was created to fill a gap in healthcare professional training and provide health research and health professional trainees with the opportunity to increase awareness of sustainable health systems and current action in Canada. It is coordinated by CASCADES Canada with federal funding.   

Through guided learning activities, meetings with local sustainability leaders and nation-wide panel discussions, the Summer Institute aims to develop trainee knowledge, leadership skills and capabilities, and build professional, interdisciplinary networks of trainees and professionals with shared interests. Daily themes are outlined below.  

Daily theme  National Panelists  Local Leaders 
Climate Change, Health and Health Equity  Dr. Rick Glazier, Dr Sherilee Harper, Dr. Fiona Miller, Dr Danielle Toccalino  Dr. Daniel Fuller, Dr. Lori Bradford, Dr. Wanda Martin
Mitigating the Climate Harms of Health Care Dr. Andrea MacNeill, Gillian Ritcey, Dr. Sonja Wicklum Lindsey Vold, Caitlin Roy, Jared Saunders, Dr. Henricke Rees
Health System Adaptation and Resilience  Craig Brown, Dr. Celia Culley, Dakota Recollet  Dr. Ulrich Teucher, Ramneet Jassal, Dr. Jasmine Hasselback, Brooklyn Rawlyk 
Leadership and Making Change  Dr. Alika Lafontaine, Caroline Tateishi, Dr. Edward Xie  The learner group attended a facilitated bison walk at Wanuskewin focused on bison as a keystone species that promotes revitalization of prairie ecosystems.


USask took the opportunity to host a local hub in June 2023 and spent four days engaging with a group of 7 learners from various disciplines. Our learners represented a pharmacy graduate student, a resident in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, a resident in Family Medicine, and four graduate students from Community Health and Epidemiology.   

Feedback from the participants and facilitators was overall extremely positive: 

“…local people who have been working towards making their workplaces more sustainable and observing how we all encounter so many difficulties. It gave me the nice sense of “we are so many, lots of people who want to do things”, but also showed the shocking reality of “the system is not really helping” 

“It was really eye opening to hear so many different perspectives within the group. I also really enjoyed the speakers and their informative talks. I thought the progression throughout the week was very well planned and allowed us to build upon concepts we had learned the day before.” 

 It was encouraging to see that there are students and colleagues on the local level as well as on the national level who recognize that there is need and possibilities for action. We are not alone” 

 “I learned that there are steps that the healthcare industry can take to reduce climate change. I want to contribute to this mission one day.” 

Here’s a summmary of our last day from Zoe Schipper, a graduate student in Community Health & Epidemiology:

At the Saskatoon hub, we wanted to embed ourselves in the learning. Discussing temperature rise, environmental equity, and system change during the conference activities and presentations was meaningful inside a classroom but could only become heightened through the last day ‘making a change’ going out to see it. Our group visited Wanuskewin, a heritage park in just north of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Wanuskewin is unique in that it holds independent conservation status, above and beyond its provincial, and federal designations. Aiming to be a UNESCO heritage site in 2026, Wanuskewin educates on 6,500 years of Indigenous environmental practises and returning to land-based learning integration. By reintroducing 6 bison to the land in 2019, the heard has grown to 35+ with 4 new calfs born in June 2023. Learning through movement and enngaging in a space of nature brought about discussion of how to implement changes in our green spaces and how to best benefit from ecosystem services. We discussed the resilience of the grasslands to adaptation in times of drought and in collaboration with keystone species. We had the fortune of knowledge keeper guides to inform us about the species diversity in this landscape and how the reintroduction of the bison, renaturalizes the landscape with every year. Located in a deep valley by glacial erosions millions of years ago, this spot was essential to the Indigenous practice of the Fall bison jump to ensure food and materials for clothing, tipis and other essentials through the winter. Through this we discussed that each person has a role to play in the future of our environment, just as each member of the tribe had a role to play in ensuring a successful bison jump. Getting to bring our group there was a calling back to the roots of the Treaty 6 land which we get to enjoy to live, learn and collaborate. We hope to attend a nature park visit in the future and encourage other hubs to find nature-based programming opportunities to engage in kinesthetic and body-balanced learning.

The planning committee consisted of representatives from Undergraduate and Graduate Medical Education, Saskatchewan Health Authority, Community Health and Epidemiology, Division of Social Accountability (DSA), Office of the Vice-Dean Indigenous Health and Wellness, and students. We are grateful to all members of the planning committee, to DSA for support with coordination, and to local sustainability leaders who presented to share their work. *   

USask has been invited to host a local hub for the 2024 Institute. The recommendation of the planning committee is to accept the invitation and partner with other Health Sciences in hosting, to expand the pool of potential learners, speakers, and organizational support.   

Black History Month: The Continual Need for Advocacy in Medical Education

Written by Moyin Onasanya from the Black Medical Students

Before Black History Month this year, I found myself reflecting on the year 2020: a year in which an international reckoning occurred regarding the issues of institutionalized racism and anti-Black discrimination after the death of George Floyd. This event prompted policy changes in education, government, entertainment, and health care. As years have passed, in 2023, my biggest fear is that we may lose momentum for inspiring societal changes to support Black Canadians.

The Black Medical Student Association (BMSA) was formed in 2020 to create a collaborative network of black medical students across Canada. The mission was to secure equitable representation of black students in Canadian medical schools and to advocate for more inclusive medical training that equips all learners to better serve the healthcare needs of underserved black communities across Canada. The Black Medical Students’ Association USASK chapter was formed the same year with the intention of supporting the growth and vitality of the black medical students at the University of Saskatchewan.

In 2020, our founding members created the original draft of our calls to action to address institutionalized and systemic anti-Black racism within the College of Medicine. The main goals were to advocate for better Black representation within the College (including students and faculty), providing better support for Black medical students with issues such as racist mistreatment, supporting Black pre-medical students, and to increase diversity within the college curriculum. Since the creation of these calls of action, the academic board of the College of Medicine has taken action in various areas, including creating a Black physician-student mentorship program, the inclusion of diverse skin disease presentations in darker skin, the implementation of anti-bias training for students, and more. We commend the College for the work they have been able to do and the positive changes they have implemented.

In 2023, there are still ways in which we can improve to better support the Black students and the health care of Black Canadians. This includes creating greater diversity among standardized patients for student clinical learning, re-evaluating student mistreatment policies and protocols to deal with specific instances of racism, the consistent inclusion of diverse images utilized in academic lectures, the creation of a community of support for underrepresented pre-medical applicant groups, the potential creation of general application pool for Black applicants, and more.

As the years continue to pass, I hope that institutions, such as the College of Medicine, will continue to create initiatives and policies that support marginalized groups. I am proud to be a part of a group that is able to work along the College in creating an equitable future for all students, professionals, and patients in Canadian healthcare.

College of Medicine EDI Survey – Disability Findings

The College of Medicine distributed an EDI Survey from May-July, 2021 in order to start gaining a clearer picture of our large, distributed College membership, and the issues specific groups might be facing. The full report and a 1 page summary can be found here. It is important to note that ~514 people responded to the survey, representing approximately 13% of the total college population. For that reason, this data is not generalizable and should be treated with caution. Having said that, some patterns emerged that are important to pay attention to, including the findings among those who identified as having a disability.

Of the total respondents, 8% identified as having a disability, and the distribution within this group regarding type of disability is as follows: 46% physical, 43% mental or psychiatric, 17% intellectual or learning, and 17% sensory. Findings indicate that those with a disability gave significantly lower scores as compared to their counterparts regarding perception of a safe environment, fairness in pay and evaluation, inclusion in informal networks, perception of achieving success as their authentic selves, and overall feeling of belonging. Residents and undergraduate students with disabilities gave some of the lowest scores in the entire survey, highlighting the need to do better regarding communicating safety to ask for accommodations, accessibility, and following inclusive practices that take into account the variety of experiences among people with a disability. An easy place to start is to be aware and communicate the services of USask Access and Equity Services for students who are experiencing barriers to their education.

Erin Prosser-Loose PhD
Senior EDI Specialist