Spotlight on: The Community of Support


Aquila Akingbade, a participant in the 2015 Bio-statistics Enrichment Project explains a bio-statistics equation to Ike Okafor, Senior Officer of Service Learning & Diversity Outreach at the Faculty of Medicine’s Office of Health Professions Student Affairs (photo by Erin Howe).
Last July, a new bio-statistics course taught by Rhodes Scholars was launched with the aim of breaking down barriers for black students who wish to pursue medicine.

The course is part of the Community of Support (CoS) initiative which aims to increase the number of underrepresented students in medicine. In collaboration with Undergraduate Medical Education Offices of Health Professions Student Affairs and Enrolment Services, the U of T Black Medical Student’s Association and the Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario, the Community of Support provides Black Canadian students with access to mentors, job-shadowing, volunteer and research opportunities, medical-school admission information and guidance. In just six months since its launch over 140 students have joined the Community of Support and this number is set to grow considerably.

As Ike Okafor, Senior Officer of Service Learning & Diversity Outreach at the Faculty of Medicine’s Office of Health Professions Student Affairs, explains students do not need to be at the University of Toronto currently to become a member of the CoS. “CoS has students (and recent graduates) from universities across Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec. Students at over eight schools have also been organizing to hold local activities at their respective campuses.”

Oluwatobi Olaiya, Community of Support member

Oluwatobi Olaiya is one example of a student benefitting from the CoS. Currently studying Biology at York University, Olaiya is hoping to apply to medical school in Canada. He feels the CoS has connected him with a lot of different opportunities that he would not have been able access otherwise. “Before CoS I would send out mass e-mails for shadowing opportunities or research, which rarely led to anything,” he says. Since becoming part of the CoS, Olaiya says he has been provided with both shadowing and leadership opportunities. Furthermore, he has participated in a number of informational webinars. “In these meetings we are put in contact with some really great medical students who take the time to advise as well as answer any questions about medical school or the application process. I personally find it really helpful to get advice from students who recently went through the application process. These seminars often act as my espresso, energizing my academic efforts, reminding me [that] one day I too will get there.”

For more information or to join the Community of Support, see:

MythBusters: To meet admission requirements, I need to complete five full-course equivalents (FCEs) per year.

This myth is FALSE.

Applicants to the MD Program at the University of Toronto are not required to complete each year of study with five FCEs, equivalent to a full course load. The requirement to have a full course load in each year of undergraduate study (excluding summer terms) only pertains to calculation of the weighted GPA (wGPA). The wGPA automatically applies to all applicants who have completed three years of study with each year of undergraduate study being on a full-time basis with a full course load.

Admission GPA is calculated using your results from full-time studies. For the purposes of calculating your GPA, you will need to have completed at least one year of undergraduate study as a full-time student (with a minimum of three FCEs per year).

More on the Foundations Curriculum

The Faculty of Medicine is revitalizing the first two years of the MD program, known as preclerkship. Launching in August 2016, these two years of study will now be referred to as the Foundations Curriculum. The new curriculum will feature early exposure to clinical content, learning in context, the innovative use of e-learning materials to enhance curriculum delivery, and competency-based assessment.

In this video, Dean Trevor Young interviews Professor Marcus Law, Director of Preclerkship Renewal and Academic Innovation about the new Foundations Curriculum.

Save the Date: Medical School 101 Open House

Are you interested in learning more about Medicine at the University of Toronto and getting a hands-on taste of what it’s like to be a medical student?  If so, come along to the 2015 Medical School 101 Open House.FallOpenHouse2015PosterOn Saturday, November 14, students from the Faculty of Medicine are organizing a day to welcome prospective students to the Faculty and introduce them to the Medicine program.  The day will include a keynote presentation by Dr Philip Berger on physician advocacy followed by informational presentations about the curriculum and admissions process.  In the afternoon, there is an opportunity to sample the Preclerkship experience by taking part in a student-led workshop.  Throughout the day, staff from Enrolment Services will be available to answer your questions at an information booth.

Winny Li, one of the student coordinators of the day-long event, suggests, “The annual University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine Open House is not only a way to learn about the medical school curriculum at University of Toronto, but it is also a great way to put yourselves in the shoes of a medical student for a day through the interactive PBL and Clinical Skills workshop and talking with medical students and staff.”

Medical School 101 Open House – St. George Campus

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Registration required (before November 1, 2015).

For more information and to register visit the Medical School 101 Open House website.  You can also check out the Facebook page!

Sharing Bioethics in our New Welcome Space

The new Undergraduate Medical Education Enrolment Services office opened at the end of May. We are located in the Medical Sciences Building, Room 2124 on the main floor, right beside the eastern entrance on Queen’s Park Crescent West. We welcome visitors and are happy to answer your questions relating to your planned or current studies.

From September to June we are open from:
8:30 – 5pm Monday
9:00 – 6pm Thursday
9:00am – 5pm Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday
A highlight of our new Welcome Space in the office is a digital painting called Sharing Bioethics by Indigenous artist, Lisa Boivin.

Sharing Bioethics

Artist, Lisa Boivin stands next to her painting ‘Sharing Bioethics’ in the new Undergraduate Medical Education Enrolment Services Welcome Space

About the artist

Lisa Boivin is a member of the Deninu K’ue First Nation in the Northwest Territories. She is an interdisciplinary artist and a bioethics specialist at the University of Toronto, where she lectures about cultural safety. Boivin uses her creativity to bridge gaps between bioethics and aspects of Indigenous cultures to promote individual and community learning. “In my paintings I confront the Indian Residential School system and the Sixties Scoop while illuminating the resilience of Indigenous cultures,” Boivin explains. She has completed fifteen paintings over the last year. Each painting takes between 90 and 140 hours to create.

About the digital painting

Sharing Bioethics was created as a way to explain to Boivin’s mother how she marries her work and her Dene culture. “As it developed, it became an honour song for my mother,“ says Boivin.

Boivin explains there are, “No roots in the painting but every element is connected.”

“The black canvas represents Canada’s dark colonial history and the bright colours illuminate the resilience of Indigenous peoples.” Black velvet is also a popular backing in Dene beadwork. Boivin feels that, at times, her painting process often resembles the laborious process of beading because she is painting one pixel at a time.

Boivin painted herself in the image and is seen holding hands with a clinician. They are sharing bioethics. As Boivin notes, “We all have circles of medicine: the Dene medicine and the biological medicine circles overlap.”

On the top of the Dene circle there is a drum representing all of the Dene people. The animals in this painting carry sacred teachings. The raven is master of the sky and the squirrel is master of the ground. The caribou antler represents the transfer of knowledge between generations. The tobacco tie next to Boivin’s hand in the painting is an offering of thanks.

The hawk feather represents a meaningful gift Boivin received from a respected community member prior to giving her first lecture at the Faculty of Nursing. The feather was intended to help her speak to the nurses.

The flowers represent individual teachings that Boivin has received. Each flower is unique and connected by a vine, the sun, a strawberry, an animal or medicine. Most importantly each flower is connected to the earth.

The strawberries in this painting depict a powerful influence in Boivin’s life, her daughter. Strawberries are considered a woman’s medicine and the first medicine to come in the summer. Strawberry is also the first word Boivin learned in her language: įdziáz. It translates literally as little heart.

The butterflies symbolize both a close friend and transformation. Boivin learned from an elder that butterflies also teach children to be children, to walk and laugh. Boivin believes deep belly laughing promotes breathing.

The artist’s mother and father are also present in the painting. Boivin’s father radiates warmth and hospitality from the sun. Her mother is not visible but Boivin knows she is there and is instrumental in all that Boivin is and does, including the medicine.

Having the painting displayed in the Enrolment Services Office Welcome Space is “Extremely meaningful to me and my family,” says Boivin. “We lost a great deal of medicine in the residential schools. That medicine is gone. I have to find a way to make other medicine. Painting is a way to contribute to bioscientific medicine, to make things better and create awareness.” She hopes her painting will encourage discussion and prompt those seeing it to consider their thoughts about Indigenous patients.

To learn more about the artist and her paintings, visit:

To learn more about resources and opportunities available to Indigenous medical students, visit: