Dennie Recognized for Outreach Work
Driven by her own personal experience, Faculty of Medicine Outreach Coordinator La Toya Dennie is being recognized for her commitment to inclusivity and diversity by the University of Toronto’s Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office. The recognition coincides with U of T’s two week commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which is March 21.
Dennie runs the Faculty of Medicine’s Summer Mentorship Program (SMP) along with Ike Okafor, the Faculty’s Senior Officer of Service Learning & Diversity Outreach. It was Okafor who nominated Dennie for the award. Based in the Office of Health Professions Student Affairs (OHPSA), the program gives high school students of Indigenous and African ancestry a chance to explore health sciences at the University of Toronto over four-weeks in July. Since Dennie joined the office, applications to SMP have almost doubled. The program has also grown, jumping to 60 participants a year from 40-45 just a few years earlier.
In addition, new long-term support programs have been introduced. This includes Discover, a year-long program that extends the experience for SMP participants through different activities including mentorship and attending workshops and conferences. This bridges their experience in SMP as high school students to their entrance into post-secondary education.
“La Toya’s dedication and commitment to supporting students after they complete the program is a critical component of high student participation rates in Discover activities, and is highly valued and appreciated by both students and parents,” says Okafor.
“I am really inspired by the work,” Dennie says. “I think it’s important that the University of Toronto look like the city it’s a part of and I love the chance to help make that happen.”
Dennie is fueled by her own experience as a first generation student studying at U of T.
“I realized that I lacked some of the experience that was needed. I didn’t always know where to go or who I could to turn to,” she explains. While she had tremendous support at home, “…I also needed to have some broader support at the University.”
“La Toya brings a lot of passion and commitment to her work,” says Professor Leslie Nickell, Associate Dean, OHPSA. “Diversity is an important value of the Faculty of Medicine and the success of SMP and our other outreach activities is thanks in part to La Toya’s tremendous efforts.”
As for Dennie, being recognized by the Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office only encourages her to redouble her efforts, saying: “This is a clear indication we’re headed in the right direction.” She will be presented with a certificate by Professor Angela Hildyard, U of T Vice President of Human Resources and Equity, on March 19.
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