Nov 7, 2023

Chair’s Column: A Call To Support Each Other During These Challenging Times

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With chaos raining down across the globe, including the ongoing war in Israel and Gaza that is affecting so many of you personally, I will be brief.

As Torontonians, we pride ourselves on being among the most diverse cities in the world. We also, importantly, pride ourselves on our tolerance of all cultures, all religions, all peoples. Over half of us were born elsewhere in the world and came to Canada for precisely this reason – that it is a country recognized globally as one of respect for and celebration of diversity.

The Department of Medicine is a beautiful microcosm of the city in which we live. We are made of 33 different languages, at least 14 religions and at least 12 different ethnicities. Seventy percent of the near 550 fellows we train and work alongside are international medical graduates. This makes us a wonderfully rich environment not only for learning and teaching, but for providing excellent care to the diversity of patients we see.

This diversity also makes many of us feel vulnerable and isolated. From our Self-Identity Survey in 2021, 25% of faculty respondents indicated that, from their name, physical appearance and/or clothing, they are easily identifiable as a member of a specific religion.  From our most recent faculty survey in late 2022, 20% of our faculty members reported that they felt under-represented based on their race, religious affiliation, or ethnicity. I do not have similar data at the tip of my fingers for our learners but I expect the responses would be at least on par with these.

Our work, the good that we all do everyday, is to care for patients, teach our learners, and learn from one another. But so many among us are hurting deeply right now. That is why we, as a community of colleagues engaged in the shared mission of providing excellent care, must remind ourselves of the value of supporting one another in this painful moment.

For those who continue to feel overwhelmed and in need of extra support, wellness and counselling resources are available for learners and for faculty. Please ensure that you remain up to date with your hospital’s communications and understand how and where to find help if needed. If you are on U of T campus, you may contact TravelSafer, which is a free service to escort you to and from any location on campus and abutting TTC stations for added peace of mind. You can call Campus Safety Communications at 416-978-SAFE (7233).

Through respectful, compassionate discourse and authentic listening, we have much to offer to those of us who are struggling. We can only do our best for our patients and learners if we, first, do our best by each other.