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The Modern-Day Griot Project: An exciting opportunity for students with a lived experience of Blackness

This project, through the means of storytelling, offers students who have a lived experience of Blackness the opportunity to look at how they see the world, and celebrate the Black communities they make up.

We will take a five-month-long journey of self-reflection, healing, celebration, and implementation – showing that greatness and excellence is found in all aspects of Black life. Students will also have an opportunity to work with Black high school students, and help start the journey of telling their stories and changing their communities. Watch the video here!

Applications are open until December 8. Use the form here to apply. Please contact DHS Professor Suzanne Sicchia with any questions. 

New Acting Chair

Professor Michelle Pannor Silver has been appointed Acting Chair of the Department of Health and Society. Department of Health and Society Chari, Professor Jessica Fields, has been appointed Interim Vice-Dean Faculty Affairs, Equity & Success in the Office of the Vice-Principal Academic & Dean.

Department of Health and Society kicks off it's 2020-2021 Resesarch Seminar Series

The Department of Health and Society will hold a number of Research Seminars throughout the year. The talks will be hosted on Zoom on select Mondays from 12:00 - 1:15. Click here for a full schedule and to sign up to receive the Zoom link via email.

All are welcome. 

Miss a seminar? You can watch past seminars on our Youtube channel! 





Department of Health and Society Studies Awarded U of T's COVID-19 Student Engagement Award

This past summer, UofT students, Kiran Nabi, Omer Jamal, Ranie Ahmed, and Waleed Ishak were awarded UofT’s COVID-19 Student Engagement Award. Under the supervision of Dr. Nida Mustafa, these students conducted a research project which shed light on the importance of racial equity in the fight against COVID-19. The goal of the project was to explain why collecting race-based COVID-19 data is so important in ensuring an equitable response to the current pandemic. Research shows that black communities are disproportionately affected by food insecurity, low-income and unstable housing in Canada (Gardezi et. Al 2008). During this pandemic, these present health disparities were further exacerbated and produced greater negative health outcomes for the black community. These student researchers, therefore, felt it was their responsibility to gather data that would help vulnerable communities respond accordingly to the virus. The research solely focused on Black communities in the GTA, and various community health centres were contacted to share their insights through interviews and podcasts. 

 Top row (left to right): Ranie Ahmed, Omer Jamal, Waleed Ishak

Bottom row (left to right): Kiran Nabi, Dr. Nida Mustafa

The findings from the research project can be found on the website, “”. From their analysis, the student researchers found that a “one size fits all” response is not appropriate in this pandemic. Particular communities, including black communities, are more vulnerable due to greater risk of living with low income, food insecurity and unstable housing. Temporary funding and support will not lessen the systemic social and economic disadvantages these communities already face. Therefore, greater attention needs to be paid to ensure equity. The entire research project can be found on the above website (including podcasts, interviews, a research poster, and an infographic flyer). The student researchers really hope you have a look!


Health and Society Scholars-in-Residence Adapt to COVID-19 Research Restrictions 

Conducting research during the pandemic has presented challenges both for faculty and for students for whom research assistantships and internships provide valuable experience. Faculty in the department of Health and Society have responded with creativity and flexibility, finding ways to continue to provide students with the opportunity to be involved in research, even from a distance.

Health and Society professor Dr. Laura Bisaillon’s current project is an example of how researchers have adapted their work to benefit scholarship, social change, and students. Dr. Bisaillon’s project was part of the University of Toronto’s Jackman Scholars-in-Residence (SiR) program. Typically, participating students would live in residence at one of the University’s campuses for four weeks in May while working on faculty projects. Due to the pandemic, on-campus research and residence were impossible in May. So, six SiR who worked on Dr. Bisaillon’s research project from May to July found creative ways to collaborate from India, China, Costa Rica, Vancouver and Toronto – using Discord, a group chatting network originally built for gamers.

Dr. Bisaillon’s project, Making Medical Inadmissibility in Canadian Immigration Law Visible: Drawing, Filming and Telling Ethnographic Stories, unpacks the logic behind federal immigration law that excludes people with chronic illness and disability from permanently settling in Canada. According to Jessica Ye, one of the SiR, the goal is “to show how medical inadmissibility and the institutional structures which support it harm people in very real ways. This barrier to entry, to residency, to citizenship, is nothing short of unethical.” A central contribution is telling stories from the standpoint of people affected by medical inadmissibility. Dr. Bisaillon explains, “scholarship anchored in the relevancies of people with first-hand experience with medical inadmissibility is highly desirable for its transformative promise.”

The SiR used stories told by persons affected by medical inadmissibility from Dr. Bisaillon’s scholarly work and forthcoming book to mobilize their own creative work, producing an animated documentary film. A graphic novel with the University of Toronto’s ethnoGRAPHIC Series is the group’s next undertaking.

Despite COVID-19 restrictions, the SiR experience was a valuable one for the students. Zihan Yi, a recent graduate from the University of Toronto’s St. George campus’s Art History program, described the chance to work on the project as a “once in a lifetime experience,” and Aida Radoncic, who also graduated recently from the St. George campus with majors in Art History and Anthropology explained that “working on this project as a group has highlighted how we, both as academics and artists, had to adapt and create new ways of approaching collaborative work virtually.” The partnership was also valuable for Dr. Bisaillon: “They are among the most curious students I have ever met at the University of Toronto. The experience was brilliant.”



From left to right, top to bottom: Ujwal Mantha, Laura Bisaillon, Zihan Yi, Ze Xi (Jessica) Ye, Ke Er (Amy) Zhang, Aida Radoncic, and Tania Montoya


The Department of Health and Society (formerly ICHS) has been profiled in the University of Toronto Scarborough's online magazine, the UTSC Commons. The article, The future of innovation means casting a wider net — Bringing disciplines together to explore the big questions, highlights how the diverse and innovative approaches to health research at ICHS come together to change the conversation about what it means to study and teach about health. 

Congratulations to Health and Society Teaching Assistant Nida Mustafa! Nida is the recipient of the Teaching Assistant's Training Program TA Teaching Excellence Award for 2020. Nida is a PhD candidate at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, in Social and Behavioural Health Sciences. Her doctoral research explores women's lived-experiences of chronic pain at the intersection of culture, gender and immigration. Here is what Nida had say about her outstanding work at ICHS:

As a Teaching Assistant, I have had the opportunity to interact and teach students, as well as learn from their questions, stories and experiences. ICHS students are brilliant thinkers who critically engage with course concepts and materials. They think deeply about health and illness by situating experiences within social, historical and political conditions. In my teaching, I aim to foster such critical dialogue with the use of case studies, allowing students to apply key concepts learned in class to real world situations. I also create a positive space in the classroom for students to ask questions, discuss and brainstorm with peers in an open and supportive environment. The relationships I have built with students over the past several years further attests to the rewarding experience I have had as a Teaching Assistant at ICHS. 


The Interdisciplinary Centre for Health & Society presents the UTSC International Health Film Series and Expo, featuring four film screenings and guest speakers from across the University and the community. Screenings take place each Tuesday evening in March, from 6-9 pm. Screenings are free and pizza will be served. Please click here for more information.


The head of the UTC Alzheimer’s Society, Meryl Rae Villacastin, hosted an event with Shepherd Village, a senior home in Scarborough, to help ICHS students learn how to become volunteers and engage in intergenerational activities like games and art with seniors.

Professor Cassandra Hartblay appeared in episode 2.1 of the podcast Contra* talking with Aimi Hamraie, from Vanderbilt University and disability dance performance artist Alice Sheppard about how disability culture and design practices shape contemporary disability art. The podcast and transcript are available here.

ICHS faculty convened for a day-long retreat on December 4th, 2019 to discuss the unit's core values and its shared vision for the future. 

Professor Laura Bisaillon's narrative photo exhibit, titled “What does Forced Immobility Look and Feel Like? Being Young and Defiant in Eritrea,” hangs at the Yorkville Public Library until the end of October, 2019. The exhibition was covered in a story by the Toronto Star.

ICHS and CCDS cosponsor a panel on community engagement in the UTSC Library Maker Space on October 30th from 5-7pm! The panel features the following community experts: Liben Gebremikael, Executive Director of TAIBU Community Health Centre; Alfred Jean-Baptiste, Executive Director of the Regent Park Centre for Community Learning & Development; Abena Offeh-Gyimah & Talisha Ramsaroop, of the Jane Finch Community Research Partnership; Joanne Joanne McKiernan, Executive Director Volunteer Toronto. Professor Susannah Bunce, Department of Human Geography, and Kimberley Tull, Director, UTSC Community Development & Engagement serve as discussants.

A new health studies course on Sleep: Structure, Function, and Pathology taught by Tatyana Mollayeva is featured in UTSC news!

Congratulations to ICHS students Danica Bui, Fatema Motiwala, Fatima Haque, Nawrose Khan and Sarah Syed and ICHS Assistant Professor Laura Bisaillon for the publication of "Becoming Migration Researchers: Disquieting Borders with Auto-Ethnography," a fall 2019 special issue of the journal ALiGN featuring their work! Check out their writing here.

ICHS has launched a new website menu! Check out our new & improved program descriptions, student resources and FAQ pages. And make sure to update your browser bookmarks with our new URL (!

ICHS has moved to Highland Hall! In November 2018 the ICHS faculty and staff settled in to new offices on the 2nd floor of UTSC's newest building.

In the summer of 2019, ICHS bids farewell to our interim director, Holly Wardlow, and welcomes Jessica Fields as the new director of ICHS!