When Ryan Hinds, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the University of Toronto’s (U of T) Dalla Lana School of Public Health, reached out to see if Scarborough Health Network (SHN) would be part of a March Break event for high school students, the answer was a resounding, “Yes, let us know how!”

From March 13 to 16, U of T’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health and Temerty Faculty of Medicine with support from SHN, the Scarborough Ontario Health Team (SOHT) and East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP) held their Health Professionals Career Week, aimed at introducing racialized and marginalized students from underserved communities to the wide range of health career opportunities for them to explore. A call out was made to Black, Indigenous, and students from other racialized and marginalized communities in Scarborough and east Toronto to participate in the four-day March Break program, which included two days of educational sessions at U of T Scarborough Campus, and two days of on-site visits and tours at local hospitals. SHN’s Centenary Hospital was one of these locations, where a myriad of staff, physicians and volunteers came together to engage with the students.

“SHN is so proud to invite these students to our hospital. SHN provides an inclusive and diverse environment for all community members who may need to visit our hospitals. And, we are always thinking ahead to supporting the next generation of health care workers,” said Michele James, Executive Vice President, People and Transformation.

Some key features of the program included promoting our diverse staff and leaders so that the students would have a chance to meet health professionals who look like them and may have come from similar backgrounds and experiences. We also provided learning opportunities within various settings at the hospital. The learning centred on a case study designed specifically for the students that documented a complete care pathway for a cardiac patient. With Centenary Hospital being home to the designated cardiac centre for the region, on the site tour, students got to follow a cardiac patient’s journey through the hospital – from patient registration, cardiac diagnostics and the arrhythmia clinic, to the cardiac catheterization lab and an inpatient unit, to pharmacy, biomedical engineering, and cardiovascular rehabilitation.

“It is critical to engage our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) students and medical professionals. By cultivating these authentic connections with the minds of the future, these students can bring real world experiences and understanding of the needs of these diverse communities, particularly in Scarborough. It was an honour to have these students engage with healthcare professionals in this meaningful and impactful way,” said Hinds.

“In addition, I think being able to go on tours of the hospital and see different units, it makes the learning much more tangible and real. When you hear or see patients coming in, and hear codes going across the hospital, you create an experience students won’t soon forget,” he added.

After the site tour, students took part in an in-depth discussion about the case study. Additionally, students enjoyed meet and greets with a representative of the senior leadership team and a mix of patient care and non-clinical staff from across SHN, including a welcome session at the start of the day with staff from human resources, corporate communications, and SHN Foundation, as well as a later panel featuring volunteer services, cardiac care, professional practice, and health equity, patient and community engagement.

“This was an opportunity to provide real life experiences within the hospital, build a relationship with the healthcare system, and to give them insight into possible careers. Seeing these healthcare professionals in-person here at Centenary provides a greater impact for the students and their overall understanding of various career opportunities that may be right for them,” said Florence Edebiri, Manager of Volunteer Services and Non-Clinical Student Placements. Florence and her team took the lead in organizing this successful event.

Hinds said he’s hoping this workshop sheds some light on some lesser-known careers in healthcare.

“Wonderfully, SHN has been super welcoming and has opened its doors to around 50 students. SHN is making a major impact on them by offering these sessions. We’re introducing students to careers that they may not typically hear about in high school, but that are incredibly critical to the healthcare system, like an occupational therapist, medical imaging technologist or pharmacist,” he said. “We want students to know about these careers now so they can make some informed decisions as they move forward with their professional journey. It really means a lot to them. Really grateful to Michele James, Florence Edebiri, Nikki Arthur, and the whole SHN team for helping make this a reality.”

SHN is committed to finding innovative ways to connect with youth in our community to educate them about what we do. Check out our “Hospital Heroes” booklet, developed in 2021, to highlight members of our diverse workforce in different occupations.

Click here to view the booklet.