Department of Health and Society proud to announce Essay Award winners

Fawziyah Ibrahim and Shennel Simpson
L-R: Fawziyah Ibrahim and Shennel Simpson

The Department of Health and Society is pleased to announce the winners of our 2023 Essay Award Competition.

The award, now in its second year, invites Black students in the Department to submit writing on subjects relating to health in the Black community. Each winner receives a prize of $200.

This year’s winners are Fawziyah Ibrahim and Shennel Simpson.

Fawziyah Ibrahim is a 4th year double majoring in Molecular Biology, Immunology and Disease, and Health Studies. A student researcher and advocate for equity, diversity, and inclusion Fawziyah has a passion for social impact and community engagement. Through her community involvement, she aims to cultivate an equitable environment for underserved populations, recognizing the privileges she possesses and uplifting those who do not have access to equal opportunities

“Winning this award underscores the significance of Black leadership in health and wellness, and I am honoured to receive this recognition!” says Fawziyah. “My essay examines the absence of equity, diversity, and inclusion in healthcare for Black professionals, which can be attributed to the historical origins of present-day anti-Black discrimination. In writing this piece, I hope to shed light on this issue and also amplify the voices of the unheard through advocacy and research, both on and off campus. In receiving this award, I am further inspired to continue my efforts in advocating for inclusive healthcare practices, working towards a future where Black professionals are empowered and have equal opportunities to thrive.”

Shennel Simpson is a second-year undergraduate student, double majoring in population health and biology and minoring in psychology. Her passion for student advocacy, health promotion, and addressing health related concerns in racialized communities comes from her experiences as first year rep for SCSU, HSSA, DSTEM, Diabetes Awareness Society, and the Pre-Pharmacy Student Association. She took a health humanities aligned approach to the competition and wrote a spoken word piece expressing her thoughts on anti-black racism in healthcare and medicine and how Black populations are affected.

Shennel said: “I am truly honored and blessed to have been selected as one of the DHS Essay Award Competition winners. My spoken word piece: ‘We are Human, Too’ visualizes the voices of Black populations and their experiences with pregnancies, giving birth, mental health resources, lack of autonomy, and medical exploitation; topics that are rarely discussed or improved upon for Black communities. Anti-Black racism in medicine and healthcare is still common in our society today, whether it is in the hospitals, health centers, laboratories, academic institutions, or towards the nurses, physicians, and assistants themselves. As we continue to cultivate a safer and healthier environment for Black populations to thrive in, it is just as important that their concerns and suggestions are heard, respected, and taken into consideration.”


Advancing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Healthcare for Black Health Professionals
by Fawziyah Ibrahim

The lack of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in healthcare and education has significant implications for Black health professionals, creating barriers to entry, advancement, and retention in the healthcare sector. It is important to recognize that anti-Black racism inmedicine has historical roots and persists in the present day, resulting in health disparities and inequities for Black individuals [1]. Thus, addressing anti-Black racism requires a collective effort from key stakeholders and community members to implement intersectional medical training within healthcare institutions to address anti-Black racism in healthcare and improve health outcomes for Black individuals.

Introducing this training within healthcare institutions can help address the underrepresentation of Black health professionals by creating a more inclusive environment for Black students. Research has shown that Black doctors are underrepresented in medical faculties and leadership positions, which can make it difficult for them to access opportunities for professional advancement [1]. Coupled with this, many Canadian schools enforced racial segregation policies that limited access to educational opportunities, with some universities denying admission to Black individuals based on their race [2]. However, by providing training that addresses intersectionality and other social determinants of health, institutions can better prepare Black students to navigate these barriers and succeed in their careers. This can include courses on cultural competency, unconscious bias, and patient-centered care that consider race and other factors that affect health outcomes. The University of Toronto's Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office, which offers professional development courses to promote faculty and staff understanding of their roles in advancing racial equity, diversity, and inclusion at U of T, would be an effective example of this.

Also, promoting a culturally competent healthcare workforce can help address the lack of trust and confidence that many Black individuals have in the healthcare system because of historical injustices, and they will be more likely to seek healthcare services in the future [3]. To implement this, healthcare institutions can develop policies that explicitly condemn and address racism in all its forms, including anti-Black racism. These policies can outline expectations for staff and trainees to undergo cultural competency training and to work towards addressing racism in their practice. Second, institutions should create initiatives that aim to foster EDI in all aspects of education and practice. This can include creating mentorship programs for Black staff to promote the recruitment and retention of Black faculty and establishing scholarships and other financial aid to support underrepresented students [4].

In conclusion, addressing anti-Black racism in healthcare requires a systemic approach that involves policy changes, funding support, and collective action. Introducing intersectional medical training programs within healthcare institutions can help address the underrepresentation of Black health professionals and promote a culturally competent healthcare workforce. However, such training programs require funding support from external stakeholders and policymakers to ensure their long-term sustainability and effectiveness. By working together and committing to systemic change, we can ensure that healthcare systems serve all communities equitably and that Black health professionals can succeed in their careers and make meaningful contributions to society.


1. Dryden, O.S. and Nnorom, O. (2021) “Time to dismantle systemic anti-black racism in medicine in Canada,” Canadian Medical Association Journal, 193(2), pp. E55–E57. Available at:

2. Henry, N. (2021) Racial Segregation of Black Students in Canadian Schools, The Canadian Encyclopedia. Available at: (Accessed: April 11, 2023).

3. Jaiswal, J. (2019) “Whose Responsibility Is It to Dismantle Medical Mistrust? Future Directions for Researchers and Health Care Providers,” Behavioral Medicine, 45(2), pp. 188–196. Available at:

4. Karani, R. et al. (2017) “Commentary: Racism and Bias in Health Professions Education: How Educators, Faculty Developers, and Researchers Can Make a Difference,” Academic Medicine, 92(11S), pp. S1–S6. Available at:


Anti-Black Racism in Medicine and Healthcare: Spoken Word Commentary

We Are Human, Too
by Shennel Simpson

Another mother wails within a hospital room

Might as well start to prepare the tomb

Swept with a broom are her concerns and cries

Dismissed under the guise of “she can handle the pain”

What is there to gain?

As a physician your mission is to provide the care

To heal, aid, and prescribe anywhere

Yet your patient is there, unaware of what’s wrong

Your decision to do nothing is doing everything to prolong

Her autonomy? Disrespected

Her questions? Neglected

Her discomfort? Projected on tabloids for the world to see

Not enough is being done to stop this adversity

Which once again raises these inquires:

Does another black mother have to wallow in her sorrow with the uncertainty of seeing her child tomorrow?

Will another black man have to suffer alone, trapped with thoughts they couldn’t express in either home?

How many more of Henrietta’s cells have to be taken away until they see the medical exploitation and genocide of my people is not okay?

Day by day, these events take place and each case is anything but opened

Black communities health issues are overlooked once again

Every child, man, and woman has a story

We are not test subjects, entertainment, or another tragedy; someone you once knew

We are Human, too