Medicine Admission Award for Black Canadians goes unawarded

No candidate was identified, according to Commission on Black Medical Students chair

Image supplied by: Journal File Photo
Medicine Admission Award for Black Canadians goes unawarded.

Last spring, Queen’s pledged to award incoming Black medical students $50,000 in entrance scholarships. The scholarship, which was slated to start this year, has gone unawarded so far.

After being made aware of a 1918 ban on Black students enrolling at Queen’s medical school, the University established a Commission on Black Medical Students last spring. In June, the Commission promised to award Black Canadians entering the School of Medicine up to $50,000 in financial support over five years on the basis of financial need and academic achievement.

“There was not a candidate identified for the award this year,” Mala Joneja, chair of the Commission, told The Journal.

However, Joneja said a new curriculum, called Who Gets to be a Doctor?, has been added to the first year of medical studies. The curriculum was designed and is delivered by Professor Jenna Healey, a medical historian.

“The curriculum consists of information related to the 1918 ban, and other cases of barriers to medical education experienced by various groups of people,” Joneja said. “Students were asked to read these cases and reflect on them.”

Who Gets to be a Doctor? is a total of three hours long. One hour of the curriculum is independent learning through a module designed by Healey, and the other two hours are interactive, small-group, classroom learning.

“That might not seem like very much, but it is very competitive to get new and different areas into the medical school curriculum. There are limited hours,” Joneja said.

According to Joneja, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and the curriculum will run again next year as an introductory component to first-year education.

Another project the Commission included establishing a permanent exhibit in the School of Medicine’s atrium, which would pay homage to the impacts of the colour ban on the School of Medicine.

However, Joneja told The Journal the Commission’s priorities have shifted. They’ve been given the opportunity to install a plinth dedicated to the students affected by the 1918 ban in the Medical Quadrangle. The plinth, which will be a podium with metal pages, will be one of four plinths at Queen’s. The other three plinths are dedicated to Indigenous peoples, the 5th Field Company, and the Nobel Prize-winning neutrino discoveries. 

“Because there are so few plinths [at Queen’s], this is a major act of remembrance,” Joneja said.

The Commission has two ongoing projects: a mentorship program for Black medical students, and an educational symposium on the role of black students in medical education.

Joneja emphasized the work of the School of Medicine Panel of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, which she sits on, along with a group of medical students. “We’re fortunate to have this panel of students to openly discuss these issues,” she said.

Joneja said the Commission’s work is ongoing, and will continue to address both historical decimation, such as the 1918 ban, and current problems concerning diversity. “Issues of bias and exclusion exist everywhere in academia and in healthcare,” she said.


black students, Queen's School of Medicine, Scholarships

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