Mar 16, 2022

Achieving “Health for All” Requires Diversity in Medicine: Andrea Boggild

Alumni Profile
Andrea Boggchild

In the past four years, Andrea Boggild (MD 2003) has mentored close to 100 students in the Community of Support Program at the University of Toronto’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine, an initiative that assists students who belong to groups historically underrepresented in science and medicine.

You graduated from U of T’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine in 2003. Where are you today?

I am a clinician scientist at UHN and Associate Professor in Temerty Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine. I also serve as the medical director of the Tropical Disease Unit of Toronto General Hospital where I see patients who are suffering from illnesses acquired during travel or prior to migration to Canada. I am also a graduate faculty member of U of T’s Institute of Medical Science, where my research program focuses on closing diagnostic and care gaps for those with neglected tropical diseases.

What has staying involved with U of T meant to you and what have you learned?

 Experiencing U of T as both a medical trainee and faculty member has enabled me to better serve the University’s student population in a mentorship and advisory capacity. Growing with U of T over the past 23 years has equipped me with the knowledge, skills, and expertise to guide students along their academic trajectory – particularly those who have been historically underrepresented in STEM.

One of U of T’s campaign themes is “Enabling Healthy Lives.” What does that term mean to you?

Optimal health outcomes can only be achieved when communities are reflected by the health-care workers by whom they are served. Thus, we will continue to fall short of achieving goals such as the World Health Organization’s “Health for All” until such a time that the physician and public health workforce truly reflects the rich diversity of the Canadian national fabric.

U of T embraces the principles of “inclusive excellence” – a campus community rooted in access, equity, diversity, and inclusivity. What do the terms “inclusive excellence” and “diversity in medicine” mean to you?

In 2018, I launched a concerted effort to increase diversity in my lab and encourage students from underrepresented backgrounds to consider careers in medicine and science. So to me, inclusive excellence means that the entire academic enterprise has operationalized strategies that:

  • a) Proactively dismantle barriers to diverse and equitable representation amongst the student, staff, faculty, and decanal membership
  • b) Continually welcome, nurture, and solicit student, community, faculty, and content-expert engagement in curricular and process improvement
  • c) Clearly oppose anti-Black racism, anti-Indigeneity, ableism, sexism, gender bias, heteronormativity, homophobia, transphobia, religious- and creed-based discrimination, and other recognized forms of ignorance and hate-based prejudice
  • d) Fearlessly, and without apology or retreat, promote and fund a, b, and c

What would you tell your first-year self or people in first year?

When one is accustomed to privilege, equity is perceived as oppression, and the resulting backlash is fierce. Don’t let that blowback push you off the path of justice. Just a minute amount of force applied consistently over time can steer a freightliner off a collision course, and you too can contribute to positive change with small intentional steps taken each and every day.

Where do you keep your U of T degree?

In my home office.

What words do you live by?

Your lived experience is your truth, and your truth is your power. No one can take that away from you.

This story originally appeared on the Defy Gravity campaign website.