DHS alumni returns to UTSC as Scholar in Residence

Dr. André Comiran Tonon
Dr. André Comiran Tonon

A psychiatrist and UTSC alumni will be returning to the Department of Health and Society as a Scholar in Residence this year.

Dr. André Comiran Tonon holds a Ph.D. in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and currently works as a post-doctoral researcher at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) and as a medical practitioner at the Hospital de Clínicas de Porto Alegre, in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

During his stay in Canada he will also be completing a Clinical Fellowship at McMaster University’s Faculty of Medicine.

Dr. Tonon attended the Department of Health and Society on a placement in 2014. He’s delighted to be back in the city and on the campus that made such an impact on him. “I have a lot of friends here, and it's really nice to see what great relationships I created that year I was at UTSC,” says Dr. Tonon. “It's been cool seeing all those people again.”

Dr. Tonon’s academic and medical background is in neuropsychiatry, women’s health, and health humanities. Much of Dr. Tonon’s research is in chronobiology – the study biological rhythms – in the context of mental health. In particular, he has examined the effects of light exposure in human health. “We are looking at the impact of modernization, modern societies in terms not only of being exposed to more artificial light at night, but also people doing shift work or traveling across time zones,” explains Dr. Tonon. “This biology used to cycle based on the sunlight, but now we have a whole new perspective on how our biology is going to respond to the environment.”

During his time at UTSC Dr. Tonon took classes in health studies, medical anthropology and health humanities. One of the highlights of his stay was working on a project with Dr. Andrea Charise focusing on the intersection between therapy and dramatic monologues, which received the Mary Seeman Award for Excellence in Humanities from the Temerty Faculty of Medicine. An actor in his spare time, Dr. Tonon is interested in reviving and expanding this project.

“I cannot think of a more delightful story of student success than Dr, Tonon’s,” said Professor Charise. “He was part of UTSC’s pioneering Health Humanities curriculum, then launched his career in Brazil, and returns to DHS now with a desire to contribute back to the tremendous resources UTSC has to offer.”

Living in Toronto also allowed Dr. Tonon to examine his identity as a Brazilian. “In Brazil I'm white and I'm privileged, and I had always been,” explained Dr. Tonon. “When I was here, this was the first time I experienced not being considered white. Here, if you come from Brazil, if you have an accent, you are Latino. All of a sudden I start belonging to a different community and I ended up liking that.”

“I found community here, and I realize that it's easy to find community in Toronto, with so many people coming from abroad and so much diversity. Yes, there is racism, but still you can find your community. After that moment of strangeness past, I became more aware of who I am in the world.”