Feb 26, 2024

U of T Giving Day 2024: On inclusive excellence and the power of philanthropy

Alumni Profile, Students, Education, Alumni, Giving, Inclusion & Diversity
By Emma Jones

For sisters Ida-Maisie and Petra Famiyeh, championing Temerty Medicine’s second annual Giving Day with the University of Toronto has deep personal meaning.

Ida, a graduate of the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy and now a first-year medical student at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, and Petra (MD ’23), a first-year resident in Internal Medicine, both became interested in pursuing careers in medicine after taking part in Temerty Medicine’s Summer Mentorship Program (SMP).

Run by Temerty Medicine’s Office of Access and Outreach, the SMP provides high school students of Indigenous or African ancestry the opportunity to explore health sciences through hands-on activities, experiments, lectures and special projects over four weeks each July.

As newcomers to Canada, Ida explains, the SMP gave them a better understanding of how the university system operates at U of T, showed them how to navigate resources and exposed them to careers and opportunities they didn’t know were within reach.

Throughout their studies, Ida and Petra have made a point of giving back to the organizations that supported them. Both have volunteered as coordinators for the SMP, and have overseen community-based mentorship programs that support Black students facing systematic barriers on their professional journeys.

Ahead of U of T Giving Day on March 26, 2024, Emma Jones spoke with Ida and Petra about how they benefitted from Temerty Medicine’s outreach programs, their philosophic approach to philanthropy, and the impact they believe support for inclusive excellence will ultimately have on patients and the broader health care system.

What was your introduction to the University and the Temerty Faculty of Medicine?

Ida: I chose to pursue medicine at U of T because of its huge emphasis on equitable access to education. U of T has taken great strides to ensure they factor in a lot of the social and structural determinants that can affect a person’s education and career paths.

Our family moved to Canada in 2005. I was a very shy new immigrant, afraid to speak up and to use my voice. Thankfully, one day at my high school I saw a bulletin about the Summer Mentorship Program (SMP). I decided to apply, and it quite literally changed my life.

Through that program I was exposed to careers I never even knew existed. I got a better understanding of the university system and how that works and how to navigate resources. I was paired with mentors who are still my mentors to this day — forming that lifelong connection has been very instrumental and it really developed my confidence.

Petra: In grade 11 going into grade 12, I applied to be part of the SMP after seeing the amazing experience Ida had with the program.

Just having that one month of experiencing different healthcare professions with the hands-on pieces and the panels was really eye opening. It showed me the opportunities that were available to me and made me realize that I could have support. I saw people who look like me doing the same thing. Everybody who came to speak to us would tell us that ‘we're here to help, we want to help.’

Why have you decided to serve as ambassadors for U of T Giving Day?

Ida: Nothing I've achieved in my career has been without help. I have received both formal and informal help through mentorship, as well as funding. Being able to have that support so that you can focus on your goals is so key. The Summer Mentorship Program and other initiatives help individuals pursue their educational and career goals and really help bridge the gap to achieving equitable access.

Petra: I was president of the Black Medical Students’ Association when I was in medical school. That gave me the opportunity to experience what it was like to get people to support our events. I realized that things don't just pop out of thin air. Programs don't just happen. They are possible because people are willing to put their time and money into them. Ida and I benefited so much from the programs that U of T offers. If we can help those programs in any way, we want to do it.

Why is championing equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging at Temerty Faculty of Medicine and the University important to you?

Ida: I've always wanted to be a physician, but moving to Canada at such a formative age and having to navigate the system without the same networks others had was a challenge.

I've seen how a person can be negatively impacted when a system is not set up to help address a lot of the social and structural determinants of their path. I've also seen the flip side of when the system is set up right and we try to identify and fill those gaps. It can really help people achieve things that they never thought were possible.

Petra: As a physician wanting to provide the best care that I can to my patients, I've recognized that sometimes the best care doesn't necessarily come just in the forms of medications and tests and procedures. It’s being cared for by somebody who understands you and your lived experience.

I once cared for a patient who had a similar background to my own. This patient had been trying to communicate with my colleagues, but would flip from English to a different language that staff didn't understand. I went in and I started chatting with him about his childhood in our shared language. It made such a huge difference for him. He felt a little bit less confused, a little bit more oriented, and he was more willing to let us perform our necessary diagnostics. It was such a little thing, but it’s an example of why our healthcare workforce needs to be diverse – because, ultimately, it affects patient care.

What would you say to community members thinking about supporting Temerty Medicine on Giving Day?

Ida: You won't regret it. It’s such a rewarding feeling to look at the impact of giving back and see what you have helped achieve. And it's a full circle moment — none of us get anywhere without some help one way or another, and being able to pay it forwards is the human thing to do.

Petra: Your money works. Gifts fund a lot of different programs that just need a little extra support. It goes to help people like me who benefit from the university’s programs and it goes towards improving, ultimately down the pipeline, patient outcomes – which we all value and benefit from.

About U of T Giving Day

U of T Giving Day is a 24-hour university-wide fundraising campaign aimed at promoting inclusive excellence and positively impacting the lives of learners and faculty, students and researchers. Donations help fund the Temerty Faculty of Medicine’s important inclusion initiatives and ensure Temerty Medicine can further strengthen its commitment to inclusion and continue to evolve as a world leader in medical education, research and innovation.

On Tuesday, March 26, 2024, please join us and the Temerty Faculty of Medicine community in promoting inclusive excellence by making a gift to the Temerty Medicine fund that matters most to you. Your gift, regardless of the amount, truly will make a difference in the lives of current and future health professionals.

Find out more at uoft.me/GivingDayTemertyMed