Focusing on Black Health

Mar 1, 2017
Author: 
Liam Mitchell

Wangari Tharao and Drs. Fahima Osman & Aisha Lofters participate in a panel discussion at the 2017 BPAO Conference.

Annual symposium shines light on health conditions affecting Black communities

Improved diets and additional exercise could save more Black patients from the risks associated with high blood pressure – such as heart attacks, strokes and diabetes – than prescription drugs. That would help address a major health issue affecting Black communities, while also potentially lowering costs.

Dr. Husam Abdel-Qadir, a cardiologist at Women’s College Hospital and PhD candidate at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences at U of T, delivered that message at the 2017 Black Physicians Association of Ontario (BPAO) Annual Symposium, which was held on Saturday February 25 at Mount Sinai Hospital. The annual meeting provides an opportunity to focus on health issues facing Black communities. In addition to Abdel-Qadir’s keynote address on treating hypertension, attendees also learned about the outcome of a new pilot peer education program on breast and cervical cancer, community-based research partnerships, oncoplastic surgery for treating breast cancer, joint replacement in arthritic patients, and new prevention and treatment options for HIV.

The conference was organized by Dr. Paul Galiwango, BPAO’s Director of Professional Development and a staff cardiologist at Scarborough Centenary Hospital, where he is medical director of the Cardiac Diagnostics lab. Galiwango began the conference with a video tribute to Dr. Miriam Rossi, who served as the Associate Dean of Student Affairs at U of T Medicine. Rossi, who has now retired, co-founded the Summer Mentorship Program and was a major champion in establishing the TAIBU Community Health Centre, which provides care to Black communities in the Greater Toronto Area.

In beginning his remarks, Abdel-Qadir reflected on his own experience of getting to know Rossi and the impact of his participation in the Summer Mentorship Program while a high school student. “I don’t think I would be here had it not been for the Summer Mentorship Program and Dr. Rossi. I hope than when I am in her position, I've done one-third as much as she has done," said Abdel-Qadir.

Among those in attendance was family physician Dr. Sonia Katyal, who was seeking new tools and practice techniques from the symposium. “We all treat Black patients as family physicians, but when I look around the room I see that I am [as a non-Black doctor] in the minority. You don’t have to be of Black ancestry to have an interest in Black health issues, so I’m disappointed that there isn’t more representation from my colleagues,” Katyal noted.

The conference is held each year on the final Saturday in February, which marks Black History Month. For more information on the BPAO, visit their website or follow their Twitter account: @thebpao

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