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Faculty of Health Sciences launches equity, diversity & inclusion initiative

On Thursday September 24, Dean Jane Philpott hosted a launch event to announce and celebrate the implementation of the faculty’s new Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) initiative. The virtual event marked the official opening of an Office of EDI, the Dean’s Action Table on EDI (DAT-EDI), and an EDI fund. Attended by over 300 people, the program featured a panel of speakers including students, faculty leadership, representatives from the new Office of EDI and the fund’s inaugural donors, the Carrick family. Third year medical student Nathan Katz and a band made up of physicians from FHS, Old Docs New Tricks (ODNT), gave musical performances. 

“This is a year where society has had an unprecedented awareness about systemic racism and other forms of discrimination and oppression,” said Dean Philpott. “Our response as an academic institution has to be more than notional. We need action. People expect action. We have to meaningfully demonstrate our commitment to the principles of equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility in our workplace, including in our research, our teaching and our clinical care.”  

Dean Philpott announced that the Office of EDI will have four staff positions and three faculty leads, all of whom will play a direct role in actioning the faculty’s EDI initiative. The Office of EDI includes: 

  • EDI Project Manager – Giselle Valarezo 

  • EDI Senior Advisor – Celina Caesar-Chavannes  

  • Elder-in-Residence – Wendy Phillips  

  • Indigenous Access and Recruitment Coordinator – Cortney Clark  

  • Faculty Lead for School of Medicine – Dr. Mala Joneja  

  • Faculty Lead for School of Nursing – Dr. Mary Smith  

  • Faculty Lead for School of Rehabilitation Therapy – Dr. Vincent de Paul  

Wendy Phillips was in attendance, providing a ceremonial blessing to open the event and later giving remarks. “There have been a lot of initiatives that have come forward in the last few years that have brought Indigenous issues to the point where they are today,” she said, “and this is now a time to take action.” 

Operating alongside the Office of EDI will be the DAT-EDI. “When we put the call out, I thought we may have 10 or 12 people sign up to participate,” says Dean Philpott. To her pleasant surprise over 150 learners, staff and faculty members volunteered to be part of this initiative. The DAT-EDI will consist of an executive and seven working groups. Each group will cover a topic such as admissions, curriculum or recruitment. They will study best practices from across the globe and decide on recommendations and metrics that will be used in the development of an EDI strategic plan.  

Both the DAT and the Office of EDI will address some of the specific concerns of students, staff and faculty members with regards to equity, diversity and inclusion. This summer, FHS opened an equity feedback form where stakeholders could share their experiences anonymously. Some of the topics most commonly mentioned included sexism and/or representation or women, socioeconomic status and elitism, and racism. The feedback gathered from this process further highlights the need for the cultural change that Dean Philpott and the Office of EDI have committed to initiating. 

Former MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes, who will be stepping into the role of EDI Senior Advisor talked about the importance of representation in healthcare and her goals to support black students at Queen’s. Speaking directly to the black students currently enrolled in FHS, Celina had this to say: 

“I want you to know that you deserve to be here. Your hard work got you here, your perseverance got you here, your dedication to your craft got you here, all while being twice as good, twice as fast, and studying twice as hard because that is what we were all taught. No matter what this process brings know that you deserve to be here. You are the personification of the excellence our community birthed, now is the time to be our ancestors’ wildest dreams.”  

Thanks to the generosity of Kathleen, Kelly and Sarah Carrick who made its inaugural gift, the faculty has launched the Faculty of Health Sciences EDI Fund. Individuals who wish to support this new initiative can find more information here: https://healthsci.queensu.ca/academics/edi.  

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