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Student essays tackle health issues facing Black community

A Black female medical professional tests an older Black man for diabetes

The Department of Health and Society is pleased to announce the winners of its recent essay award. The competition invited Black students at DHS to submit an academic writing piece on subjects relating to the health of Black communities.

First place winner Henry Khamonde, a 4th year student, Majoring in Health Studies - Population Health Stream (Science), wrote an essay on the return to “normality” and why a return to a status quo that disadvantages Black people is not an option. “I am honoured to be selected as the inaugural DHS Black Student Essay Award competition winner and contribute to the rich and longstanding history of Black students at the University of Toronto Scarborough,” said Henry.

“While there is an aura of excitement and thrill as the COVID-19 pandemic protocols and restrictions are being lifted,” he added, “I think it is imperative to remember that the effects of this transition to ‘normality’ are disproportionate. Through this opinion piece, I wanted to convey that Black people, who are already burdened by living in low-income neighbourhoods and education gaps that are linked to discrimination, will see health inequities persist as regulatory bodies begin to re-prioritize business ventures and normalize the presence of the COVID-19 disease.”

“I believe there is a huge importance attached to this opinion piece because racialized persons must now adapt to this ideological shift all while accepting that they will continue to experience unfavourable health, social, and economical outcomes.”

 

Fawziyah Ibrahim, 3rd year student double majoring in Molecular Biology, Immunology & Disease and Health Studies - Population Health Stream (Science), took second place for her essay describing ways in which anti-black racism in the healthcare system prevents black people from receiving health screenings, disease prevention education, and treatment for chronic diseases.

“Anti-black racism in medicine and healthcare is deeply embedded within our systems and is an issue that has affected me personally,” said Fawziyah. “My essay discusses the idea that anti-black racism is not always as aggressive as we think it is. Most of the time, it is subtle and is a result of the systematic racism that still exists in our society. It is important to educate the youth, especially black youth, on these topics so that they can understand the effects of racism and discrimination and can begin to work together to grow stronger as a community. Receiving this award from the Department of Health and Society has filled me with immense gratitude, and I wholeheartedly appreciate everyone who took the time to read my essay.”

 

Toluwalase Ibikunle, 4th year student majoring in human biology and health populations took third place for her essay addressing the root causes of health disparities in black communities.

“My essay was about the anti-black racism in healthcare and medicine that is prominent in our society because of the long history and multiple root causes of widening disparities within the black community which ranged from economic policies and representation – in short, anti-black racism is systemic, fatal, and enduring,” said Toluwalase. “This topic is important to me not only as a topic to be studied in our community, but rather, because the systemic effects of racism continue to deprive black communities of the wealth and safety needed to obtain adequate healthcare. I am extremely grateful to be receiving this award as it shines a light on a topic that needs to be discussed continuously. My hope is that with this award, we get the conversation going on racism in healthcare and look for solutions to eradicate it.”