Over 100 invited guests from diverse Black communities in Quebec took part in a citizen’s forum on April 14 to address Black representation across health sciences disciplines, professions and curricula. Participants brainstormed concrete ideas to address the underrepresentation of Black community members in health sciences education, curricula and professional practice.

The forum was led in partnership with the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Montreal, the Quebec Black Medical Association, the Socioeconomic Summit for the Development of Black Communities and the McGill Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

“This collaboration between two universities and two community organizations was truly fruitful and beneficial,” said Dr. Saleem Razack, Director of the Social Accountability and Community Engagement Office (SACE) at McGill. “We did better because we did it together.”

Citizen’s forum at a glance

Following opening remarks, the one-day event opened with eight people from diverse backgrounds and experiences speaking about their academic trajectories as Black community members in education and the health sciences. A moderated debate followed about barriers that Black community members experience in participating and flourishing across medicine and health sciences programs.

This debate was followed by a snapshot of the current situation across the health sciences, with speakers unpacking the existing admissions process along with upcoming initiatives aimed at addressing Black underrepresentation.

A “world café” style session then took place with participants discussing what needs to remain, change or be created in academic institutions, Black community spaces and at a societal level in order to improve Black representation across the health sciences.

“The personal narratives and stories helped ground abstract concepts and gave organizers a good idea of how to address barriers to health sciences education,” said Dr. Razack.

After the forum, what next?

Stakeholders involved in hosting the forum are distilling proposals that emerged from the forum and developing a report that will shape actions at both the University of Montreal and the Faculty here at McGill.

“As an educational institution, we have the power, but above all the duty, to fight inequality together,” wrote Dr. Patrick Cossette, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Montreal, in a statement shortly following the forum.

The SACE Office is integrating insights from the forum into the Faculty’s Action Plan to Address Anti-Black Racism, an iterative plan launched in early 2021 that evolves as new opportunities and ideas emerge.

By Matthew Brett

May 4, 2021