MGH launches Inclusion Alliance to advance anti-racism work across organization and community
Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) is advancing its commitment to addressing racism, discrimination and unconscious bias across its organization with the establishment of the Inclusion Alliance, a group dedicated to dismantling anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism and other forms of discrimination.
Formed in September 2020, the MGH Inclusion Alliance is comprised of more than 45 staff and physicians at MGH and the Michael Garron Hospital Foundation who meet monthly to help facilitate MGH’s initiatives on diversity, equity and inclusion.
To begin, the Alliance is focusing its efforts on addressing anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism at MGH by sharing and acknowledging lived experiences of discrimination in healthcare; providing feedback on MGH’s diversity, equity and inclusion work plan; and consulting on items such as internal incident reporting, which offers opportunities to learn from and prevent racist incidences experienced by employees, physicians and patients.
In addition, the Alliance has been engaged in developing MGH’s Black History Month programming. The program includes the first event in MGH’s new Inclusion Alliance Speaker Series, a presentation by Dr. Sean Wharton who will discuss racism and obesity bias in medicine, and an Inclusion Alliance film screening and panel discussion of Speakers for the Dead, a Canadian documentary that reveals some of the hidden history of Canada’s Black population.
The Alliance is also designing an anti-racism poster campaign, which will help further foster a safe, inclusive environment for racialized populations at MGH.
“As a first-generation Canadian, I want to change perceptions and be a role model for others,” says Farzana Rajwani, interim campaign director at the Michael Garron Hospital Foundation and member of MGH’s Inclusion Alliance. “The Alliance is a testament to our teams, our patients and our community at MGH as we celebrate diversity and promote a culture that values different perspectives, experiences and skills. We are stronger together.”
“Having a group focused on anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism at MGH helps bring the complexities of inequality to the forefront of our consciousness,” adds Christine Devine, wellness specialist at MGH and member of MGH’s Inclusion Alliance. “It also creates awareness for those who may be suffering in silence — they are able to identify someone in the Alliance and come forward to express themselves in a safe space.”
Lois Didyk, community support counsellor at MGH’s Community Outreach Services and another member of MGH’s Inclusion Alliance, says she regularly sees the harmful effects of systemic racism, oppression and social exclusion in the lives of the people she supports, which encouraged her to get involved.
“When MGH opened a space for conversation about anti-Black racism, I saw it as a beacon of hope in an especially dark year,” she says. “Here was an opportunity to take action and influence meaningful change in the way we practice and receive care. I joined to be part of that.”
“I see the Inclusion Alliance as a brilliant thing,” adds Rosie Sears, behavioural specialist at MGH and member of MGH’s Inclusion Alliance. “It’s a living, breathing testament to an organizational philosophy, which you don't see often.”
In the coming months, the Alliance will develop a terms of reference and assist in the application of MGH’s diversity, equity and inclusion work plan, which may include sourcing and implementing education on unconscious bias to support practices in recruitment, expanding MGH’s digital resource hub for anti-racism resources for staff, and reviewing organization-wide policies and procedures to ensure they promote inclusive language and address systemic barriers.
“At MGH, we recognize that racism comes in many forms and we continue to look internally to dismantle overt and systemic racism in the care we provide and the work environments we create,” says Sarah Downey, president and CEO at MGH and member of MGH’s Inclusion Alliance. “I’m grateful that so many of our passionate staff and physicians have agreed to lend their time to this important work and look forward to applying this lens of inclusion to our collective efforts in creating health and building community for our patients, employees and partners.”
The Inclusion Alliance is a key component of MGH’s refreshed strategic priorities. It also helps forward the organization’s commitment to addressing systemic racism in East Toronto communities and the overall healthcare system alongside its East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP) organizations and the Toronto Academic Health Science Network (TAHSN).