Nov. 23, 2020

Taking action against systemic racism

Creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment for our community and those we serve
UCalgary campus image
UCalgary campus image

The local and global perpetuation of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism and violence has highlighted the urgency to address the racism that permeates our society, including health care and medical education.

As a school that is driven to create the future of health, the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) has a critical role to play in dismantling the racism that exists in medicine. The CSM’s leadership team is committed to working as authentic allies and in solidarity with Black, Indigenous and People of Colour students, faculty and staff to truly create a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment for all members of the CSM community so that we may better serve the needs of the diverse populations in which we serve.

On June 4, 2020, Dr. Jon Meddings, MD, dean of the CSM, called for collective action against racism both within our school and in society. The CSM has implemented programs and processes to address the structural racism that exists in medicine but there is a clear need to do more. The events that have occurred during the past months have reaffirmed how much work still needs to be done and have further strengthened the CSM’s commitment to continue on this journey of change.

Black Applicant Admissions Process
Historically, there has been an under-representation of Black medical students in Canada and research suggests that a lack of Black physicians has resulted in Black patients suffering from a lower quality of care and poorer health outcomes.

Medical professionals have an obligation to ensure that care is provided to those who need it and to meet the needs of the populations we serve. An important aspect of this is for our student body to reflect the diversity of those populations and our students be trained to meet their specific health-care needs.

On July 7, 2020, the CSM announced a new Black Applicant Admissions Process (BAAP) as an optional opportunity for those who apply to the Undergraduate Medical Education (UME) program. The BAAP aims to limit any disadvantages Black applicants face during the application process attributed to their race or ethnicity.

Students who choose to be part of the BAAP will undergo the same application process and are held to the same standards as the remainder of the applicant pool. The difference is that they will have members of the Black community engage in their file review. Applicants to the BAAP may also include an optional personal essay highlighting why they have chosen to apply through this application stream.

For more information about the BAAP, review the frequently asked questions.

Indigenous Health Dialogue
When it comes to advancing health equity with Indigenous people and their communities, the CSM aims to be a leader. In October 2020, the CSM released a report which includes a series of recommendations and actions to move Indigenous health forward. The report describes the process and outcomes of the Indigenous Health Dialogue (IHD) that focused on enhancing existing Indigenous health initiatives and creating new opportunities within the CSM which align with the University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy, ii’ taa’poh’to’p.

A series of Lunch and Learns – A Path Forward Through the Indigenous Health Dialogue offers students, faculty and staff a safe and supportive space to brainstorm and discuss ideas to implement report recommendations within their units, departments and research institutes.

Indigenous Health Program
The Indigenous Health Program is committed to supporting Indigenous learners and confronting issues faced by Indigenous people in the health-care system and within our school. The program’s activities and initiatives seek to address the under representation of Indigenous people within the profession of medicine and promote health service quality improvements for all Indigenous people through professional education.

Traditional Knowledge Keepers in Residence program
Eight Elders from various Indigenous communities are building relationships and providing support to Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants through traditional knowledge exchange. The CSM’s Traditional Knowledge Keepers (TKK) in Residence program aims to enhance existing Indigenous initiatives at the CSM and offer students support, insight, historical context and an understanding of traditional knowledge. The TKK program is funded by an ii’ taa’poh’to’p intercultural capacity building grant.

Indigenous Hub
Built within the CSM’s Indigenous, Local and Global Health Office, the Indigenous Hub is a welcoming, supportive and ceremonial space for students, faculty, staff and Elders. As COVID-19 restrictions change, the TKK program will offer teachings, workshops, gatherings and ceremonies from within the Indigenous Hub.

Calgary Black Medical Students’ Association
On June 15, the Calgary Black Medical Students’ Association (BMSA) released its Calls to Action to address institutionalized racism in medical education and health care. The CSM acknowledges that the Black community is grieving and recognizes the emotional labour that members of the Calgary BMSA have put into developing thoughtful Calls to Action, collaborating to affect change and holding the CSM accountable to establishing a just culture. Several initiatives are underway at the CSM to address these Calls to Action, within the UME program and beyond.

Share your input
CSM students, faculty and staff who wish to help influence the changes being made are invited to share their questions, ideas, concerns and personal stories about systemic racism within the CSM community by completing an anonymous online form

Related links
Office of Professionalism, Equity and Diversity