Faces of U of T Medicine: Women of 2T0 & 2T1

Mar 8, 2018

In honour of International Women's Day, MD students Yezarni Wynn and Asia van Buuren put together a campaign to celebrate some of their classmates.

The women featured in the profiles below were nominated by their classmates for their friendship, their passion, their commitment to their communities, and so much more.



Chloe BrownI was born in Toronto (and love it here!). I did my undergraduate degree in environmental studies at McGill in Montreal, and my masters in economic geography at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. I spent the past 5 years working in the charity and social justice world, most recently working for an awesome charity called Community Food Centres Canada which works in food security, community building and social justice. My passion for public health and equity brought me to do a complete 180 in my life, applying to medical school in my late 20s and starting down career path number two. I brought my passion for social justice and advocacy to medical school, and am so happy to see such a strong community here. I'm currently the strategic lead for the Toronto Political Advocacy Committee, and the Local officer of Global Health Advocacy Jr. Outside of school, I'm passionate about food, family, crafts (knitting, crocheting, sewing, quilting), my perfect dog Maxie, and am newly married to a brilliant post-doc named Aaron (who lives in California).

Who is a woman, within or outside of medicine, who has inspired you and why?

My mother is definitely a woman in medicine who has inspired me in so many ways. She's an Obstetrician Gynecologist at Michael Garron Hospital, and she's always been an amazing role model for me. She's the strongest person I know, and she's not too afraid to take charge in any situation. She's brilliant at what she does, and she also showed me how a woman can be passionate, work hard, and also have the family she desires. I could only hope to be as confident as her in my future career.



MEERA MAHENDIRAN I’m originally from Scarborough and earned my undergraduate degree at UTSC where I majored in Neuroscience and Psychology and minored in Biology. Aside from my dad, my home has always been very estrogen-driven with my mom, two sisters, grandma (even my dog’s a female!) and my childhood was no different. I have always been surrounded by strong, compassionate female role models who had amazing careers and above all, were exceptional friends, sisters, mothers, and mentors. I realized then from a young age that women can have it all and as such, I have always been interested in women’s issues and celebrating my own womanhood. I am the editor and founder of UTSC’s The Women’s Issue, which is an online magazine that features stories from well-known female community figures, creative art submissions from the student body, and opinion pieces on various women’s issues from our student writers. Through this endeavor, I have always hoped to provide a platform for young women to express themselves and feel well-supported within their own campus culture and greater community.

Tell us some of your thoughts about being a woman in medicine. For example, are there any challenges, any unique privileges?

Historically, women in medicine have had it tough- imposter syndrome, harassment, restricted scope of practice, just to name a few. And the sad reality is, while we have done a whole lot to eradicate these issues, there are still traces of them left. Yet, I feel that while being a South Asian female in medicine can be challenging, it’s also a privilege. I feel empowered that my personal identity exposes me to the unique circumstances patients face and allows me to connect to them in a profound manner. These challenges I’ve faced prevent me from turning a blind eye to many of the real issues faced by both beneficiaries and providers of health care and I’m grateful for it! It allows me to be both aware, motivated, and now, able to make real change.



Meghan KerrI grew up in Kingston, ON, but my parents always encouraged me to see more of the world. From a young age I was taught to focus on the simple things in life, to work hard, and to do good, and these values led me to pursue a career in medicine. Since beginning my studies at UofT I have sought out initiatives that are meaningful to me. One example is my role as the ITM/CPC-1 course committee representative, which enables me to collaborate with our dedicated faculty to optimize our curriculum as well as provide a voice for the 2T1 class. The Swimability program brings a lot of joy into my week and allows me to support the community in a small way by volunteering my time to teach swimming to children in need. Next year, I look forward to promoting sustainability in medicine as one of your future GreenMeds reps. Most importantly, I want to say how fortunate I am to be surrounded by supportive and inspiring women every day and I can’t wait to spend the next three years with all of you.

What is one reason you are grateful to be a woman in 2018?

I am grateful to be a woman in 2018 because wherever I turn, I can find strength in women past and present in my own life, my community, and around the world. Naomi Wolf, Eleanor Roosevelt, Michelle Obama, and (of course) my mother, to name a few, are unique and inspiring women breaking new ground and redefining what it means to be a woman. I only hope to be able to do my part in providing a platform for other women to speak their truth and enact change, so we may see a day when no person or society can tell a girl what she can or cannot do.



Renee SharmaOh hey, oh hey! It’s Renee! A bit about me: I was born and raised in Sauga. I did my undergraduate degree in Health Sciences at McMaster, and then travelled to Mizoram, India where I carried out a front-line evaluation of rural and remote malaria clinics. Inspired to address systemic health inequities, I pursued my MSc in Global Health and Development from University College London. Since completing my masters, I have been passionately involved in maternal and child health research, specifically around delivery and scale-up of essential interventions in resource-limited settings. As an intern and consultant for the WHO, I took part in evaluating and updating the WHO Guidelines on HIV and Infant Feeding. For the past 3 years, I have been a research assistant with the SickKids Centre for Global Child Health, where I have led an extensive portfolio of research priority-setting studies, book chapters, systematic reviews, and course development. Outside of research, I am an exec for the Trauma Medicine Interest Group, I love hanging out with my family and friends, I sing Indian classical music, and my favorite pastime is doing puzzles in my pajamas while watching Friends. Also, naps. Naps are great.

What is one reason you are grateful to be a woman in 2018?

Today, I am grateful to be part of a supportive sisterhood of powerful, badass goddesses whose wisdom and endless empathy gives me life. I am grateful that there exist more platforms than ever for us women to vocalize, validate, advocate, and celebrate our unique and collective struggles and achievements. Still, I recognize that not everyone has this privilege. Womanhood is complex, and our gender interacts with our other intersecting identities (i.e., race, sex, age, social class, faith, sexual orientation, disability), each associated with its own system of oppression or privilege, to uniquely influence our lived experiences. Although I feel powerful and grounded in my own womanhood, I am reminded that I continue to navigate a patriarchal system. As medical students and future physicians, it is crucial that we leverage our position of power to break down barriers and promote representation of marginalized voices.



Jillian MacklinI’m Jillian, known as Jill to most. I’m in my first year of the combined MD/PhD program. I did my BMSc at Western and my MSc at UofT which really sparked my interest in pursuing my dual path. Growing up in Belleville, the city life of Toronto is quite upbeat and exciting, although I do miss the small town lovin’. In summary, I’m a life enthusiast. I’m a happy-go-lucky person who enjoys coffee a little too much and am always looking at a map to plan my next travel adventure. My short time in medicine at UofT has been nothing short of incredible. My hobby is people – meeting new people, learning from them, laughing with them, and loving them. Our class has allowed so many incredible people to enter my life. Since starting in September, I have kept busy pursuing multiple activities outside of the classroom. A defining experience for me was being the assistant director of our school musical, Daffydil. I encourage everyone to apply to our vibrant family next year! I have also been involved in a few homelessness initiatives here at UofT - working with the health promotion team of the student-led IMAGINE clinic and meeting with city councillors on our Lobby Day to make strides in implementing a homeless health tracking system. I’ve always been the athletic type – being a varsity badminton player at Western and carrying on to play as many intramurals as I can here with my class. In my off hours, I tend to ponder life and make plans for my PhD – in the realm of heart failure and quality of life is where it is pointing.

Who is a woman, within or outside of medicine, who has inspired you and why?

My forever inspiration is my Mom. My Mom is an incredible nurse and we have spent hours chatting about her interactions at the hospital and nursing home. She made me see medicine in a simple, yet heartfelt light. My Mom is always able to ground me back to an important value: the gift of human connection can go a long way. She made it known that as a healthcare worker we may not have gone through what the patient has gone through – granted, most times we have not. However, we can still connect on the fundamental level of emotion. You and the patient have both felt happiness. You both know what it is like to be sad. Or angry. Or scared. You can connect on that. You can help by just being present. You can remind them that they are important, and that their problem is worth listening to. My Mom takes the time to listen without judgement, and that is so admirable, especially to someone like me just starting their medical training. Finally, my Mom highlights that family and health should never be put on the back-burner. No matter how busy life gets, she always tells me ‘to go back to the basics’ and remember what to be thankful for. I love you, Mom.



Asia van BuurenI was born in Coquitlam, British Columbia and did my undergraduate degree at St. Francis Xavier University in Chemistry. Due to falling in love with small town living (and literally falling in love!), I stayed in Antigonish for two more years. I’m lucky enough to have two homes on the two opposite coasts! After graduation, I participated in the OceanPath Fellowship program during which I worked with an incredible community of artists with and without disabilities doing advocacy around inclusive decision-making. The next year, I worked at my university and did independent research looking at gaps in sexual education and sexual violence support services for people with disabilities in Nova Scotia. In these two years following my undergrad, I decided to pursue medicine with the hopes of continuing to advocate for underserved populations and being a part of system change. I’m super passionate about health equity, dismantling ableist attitudes, and reproductive justice which has led me to being involved in Social Justice in Medical Education, the Toronto Political Advocacy Committee as the outreach co-lead, the Local Officer of Reproductive and Sexual Health Jr., and sitting on class council. Nothing brings me more joy than being an auntie to three beautiful nephews and one golden retriever, being outdoors, swimming in the ocean, live concerts, and getting lost in a book.

What is one reason you are grateful to be a woman in 2018?

I am so grateful that as a woman I get to experience sisterhood. I am so privileged to have such a strong network of women as friends, mentors, and family all over the world who I carry with me despite our geographical distance. I have witnessed the deep connection that women have to each other, some of us through our experiences pushing for space in male-dominated fields, others through experiencing motherhood. It’s hard to explain, but the transformation that occurs when women come together, whether in movements, in song, or in our work, is I think one of the deepest privileges of being a woman. My powerhouse mama once told me that when women speak their truth, they move mountains. I believe that nothing is more transformative than a woman standing in her power and I am so grateful that I get to continue to witness this in the women around me in solidarity, and in myself as I start to discover the power of my own voice.



Yifan YangI grew up in Mississauga, and completed my undergrad at McMaster University. It was there that I found my love for musical theatre and performance. Since coming to U of T, I pursued my interests in performance through my involvement with the 2018 Daffydil production. Through Daffy, I witnessed talent and kindness beyond anything I could imagine, and I urge anyone who has even the smallest inkling of interest to join next year. In my free time, Yifan enjoys indulging in good food, and photographing our beautiful city. I love to try new things and take risks out of my comfort zone. In fact, just the other day, I was inspired by the talents of the Daffy dance team to try a beginner ballet class which I will continue to attend. My life motto is to say yes to things. Down for anything, really, as long as it doesn’t involve cardio.

Tell us some of your thoughts about being a woman in medicine. For example, are there any challenges, any unique privileges?

Now, more than any other point in history, women have been empowered to pursue traditionally male-dominated fields, and medicine is no exception. However, even though the numbers have balanced out in incoming classes, there are still some unique challenges to being a woman in medicine. One in particular I’ve been confronted with is a shared concern by some female classmates, myself included, on how to reconcile the length of training in certain specialties with their desire to have a child. It’s extremely discouraging to me that brilliant female minds are second-guessing specialties that they have such a passion and talent for. This is a complex issue and I don’t have the answers, but it’s a huge issue that I, and so many other classmates face. However, with challenges also come with unique privileges. Through shadowing as well as personal experience as a patient, I’ve learned that being a female physician gives me a unique set of lived experiences with which I can advocate on behalf of my patients. I’ve had the opportunity in my short time here so far to meet so many amazing female physicians who have fostered such a trusting and empowering relationship with their patients. Leveraging my experiences to better relate to my patients is something I definitely want to incorporate in the rest of my training, and my practice, regardless of what discipline I end up pursuing.



Saly HalawaI'm a first year medical student in the Mississauga Academy of Medicine! Previously, I completed the Health Sciences Program at McMaster University with a minor in French. Despite my short-lived time at U of T, I can't imagine being anywhere else! Not only am I able to live in my home in Vaughan where I have the constant support of family through the challenging transition to medical school but I am able to have the best of both worlds with endless opportunities offered at both U of T campuses! I've been able to carry forward many of my interests from undergrad including pursuing French as part of the Communite Francais, get involved in supporting knowledge translation as part of the UTMJ and continue my passion for research as a CREMS student. Just as important, the flexibility of the Foundations curriculum has encouraged me to seek balance between my academics, social life and physical well-being.

Tell us some of your thoughts about being a woman in medicine. For example, are there any challenges, any unique privileges?

As a woman in medicine, I am increasingly recognizing the challenge of pursuing my personal interests and responsibilities with ambitious career aspirations concurrently. However, I have been fortunate to encounter numerous female role models who have empowered me and instilled a sense of determination in continuing to balance these competing demands and ultimately work towards addressing challenges unique to women in medicine.



Hayeong RhoI'm a second-year medical student at University of Toronto. I am passionate about healthcare accessibility and equity, and inclusivity and diversity in Canada. I believe in health as a human right, and advocate for addressing social determinants of health with local, national and international grassroot organizations. I'm super excited and honoured to be nominated for this campaign, and will continue to collaborate with my amazing colleagues in the community to build a sustainable, truly universal healthcare system.

Tell us some of your thoughts about being a woman in medicine. For example, are there any challenges, any unique privileges?

I believe that privilege comes in a broad intersectional spectrum. It’s important to acknowledge one’s privilege in a diverse society like Canada. It has always been a challenge for me to position myself as an effective ally to non-dominant groups, while I exercise my privilege as a visible ‘model’ (traditionally conforming) minority woman from a middle-income immigrant family. As a medical learner and future healthcare provider, I will prioritize further development of cultural competency and become an effective health advocate, all the while hoping that my privileges do not blind me from understanding my patients’ experiences and challenges.



Kaitlin SiouI have a background in engineering and value the intersection between systems-level thinking and broader healthcare improvement. I am the Co-President of the Interprofessional Healthcare Students’ Association (IPHSA), an organization that represents 13 healthcare professions and develops interprofessional education, health policy, community outreach, and social events. I have led new initiatives including implementing an interprofessional suicide intervention workshop to provide healthcare students with actionable ways to help others with burnout, depression, and suicidal ideation. I work with medical faculty leads to design and implement changes in the Toronto Centre for Interprofessional Education curriculum. In the broader community, I volunteer my time at the student-run IMAGINE clinic and leading the Toronto Brain Tumour 5K Walk for the Canadian Brain Tumour Foundation. I have worked with community members to bring notable public figures including Toronto mayor John Tory to speak at the event. This city fundraiser continues to raise over $200,000 every year for brain tumour research, education, and patient support.

Who is a woman, within or outside of medicine, who has inspired you and why?

There are so many brilliant, kind, and courageous women in the world who inspire me but this International Women’s day, I’d like to honour my mother. Always curious and inquisitive, she challenged me to reflect critically about societal issues and to take an active role within it. At a young age, she had to learn how to be resourceful, resilient, and independent. The differences in our experiences growing up are always a reminder for me to reflect on my own biases, and to be humble and curious to other ideas and experiences. Thanks mom – it is from you that I get my values and my desire to contribute in the world.



Chika Stacy OriuwaI am a second-year medical student, completing my MD/MSc with a concentration in System Leadership and Innovation. As a professional spoken word artist, I've worked under the Hamilton Youth Poets, and earned my place as a national slam poetry finalist twice. I've keen interest in healthcare reform pertaining to the intersections of race and gender within medicine. My resolve has compelled me to remain proactive in the mentorship of youth in minority communities. For these reasons, I enjoy my roles as co-president of the U of T Black Medical Students Association, co-founder of the Black Interprofessional Students Association (BIPSA), and co-director of a non-profit youth leadership organization called uFLOW. I am currently an ambassador for the Black Students Application Program at U of T's Faculty of Medicine, and sit on the External Implementation Steering Committee to the Minister of Child and Youth Services assisting with the Ontario Black Youth Action Plan. In addition to studying with plans to be contribute to medical reform, I hope to use my background in performance poetry and public speaking to engage marginalized youth.

Who is a woman, within or outside of medicine, who has inspired you and why?

"When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me"

-excerpt from Phenomenal Woman, by Maya Angelou

I am continuously inspired by, and live my life through the teachings of Dr. Maya Angelou. Dr. Angelou was a poetic icon, civil rights activist, writer, performer, public speaker and healer of the soul. She embodies the virtue of Black femininity and dismantles constructs of race and gender respectability; she was a staunch defendant of Black culture and women's rights. As a poet, I look to her body of literature in awe and inspiration- I draw upon her words for solace. As a medical student, I look to her wisdom for reassurance, as she has taught me how to engage everyone with compassion and understanding. She reminded us that love is the antidote to hate, forgiveness is paramount, and our similarities surmount our differences. Dr. Maya Angelou was unapologetically Black and feminine, and she has taught me what it means to embrace my identity without fear or reservation.



Victoria ReedmanI'm a budding reader, amateur pop-philosopher, feminist, golden retriever aunt, and sibling of four. I hail from Owen Sound Ontario. I'm the VP External Sr. on the U of T Medical Society and represent U of T medical
students provincially and nationally.

What is one reason you are grateful to be a woman in 2018?

I am so proud to be a woman in 2018 because of the unprecedented courage, strength, and unity women have shown. This is the year of whistle blowing on sexual harassment and not accepting less than fairness. I was a skeptic, but I think "#MeToo" really did make a difference. Special thanks is owed to the women of history who broke the glass ceilings and to women with intersectional identities who fight twice as hard. I have no doubt we will continue to be honest, brave, and unapologetic because the fight is far from over. Still we rise.



Maggie McCaanI completed my Bachelor of Health Sciences (Honours) at McMaster University and my Masters of Public Health at the University of Guelph. Previous work experience includes being employed as an epidemiologist at the Public Health Agency of Canada, working as a Teaching Assistant throughout my Masters degree and working as a pharmacy assistant at a methadone clinic. For the past year, I have been volunteering at the IMAGINE clinic, a student run interprofessional clinic that provides healthcare services to people who are uninsured or homeless, as the clinic flow manager. I am currently conducting research at St. Michael’s Hospital on shared decision making interventions for people with diabetes. My interests in healthcare include population health, preventative medicine and serving vulnerable populations.

What is one reason you are grateful to be a woman in 2018?

One reason I am grateful to be a woman in 2018 is because I have the opportunity to learn as a medical student and be supported by a community of women who are intelligent, compassionate, and innovative mentors and peers. This opportunity has not always been afforded to women, and in much of the world is still not a reality. I am humbled and inspired by the opportunities I have been granted, and hope to be able to use my position of privilege to support other women in their ability to have the same choices and opportunities I have been provided.



Kayla SliskovicMy name is Kayla and I’m originally from London (Ontario), though I’ve also called Montréal and Melbourne home. I’m an older sister, a Paediatric Intensive Care Nurse, and the kind of friend who is always happy to get on a streetcar, train, or plane to visit loved ones near and far. In addition to being in my second year at UofT, I am the incumbent Medical Society President and a student representative on the Peters-Boyd Academy Council. Outside of school I am a Peer Mentor with the Peer Project, a bookworm, an avid traveler, and a slow, but determined runner.

Tell us some of your thoughts about being a woman in medicine. Are there any challenges? Any unique privileges?

This is an incredible and important time to be a woman in medicine. There are many changes, transitions, evolutions and revolutions taking place, which are made possible by countless inspiring women. I feel privileged and grateful, as well as accountable for discovering my passion and channeling it into meaningful action. This means, that as a woman in medicine, my biggest challenging is remaining honest and compassionate with myself in this search for who I am, who I want to be, and how I want to make a difference in the lives of others.

It is all too easy to be overwhelmed by the demands of school, the pervasive anxiety surrounding clerkship, electives, the match, residency and beyond, by the relentless evaluations and assessments, and by a culture of endless competition. It is all too easy to be dismayed and discouraged by continued sexism in medicine where women more frequently receive unsolicited advice to prioritize our reproductive planning regardless of our own goals and interests, where statistics about the disproportionately higher divorce rates of female physicians are emphasized by speakers, where women are more likely to be called “sweetie” or “hun” than our names, and where certain specialties are still known to be boys clubs. It is all too easy to be daunted by the immense responsibilities we are taking on to provide the best care for others, to further research, to make access to care equitable and timely, to empower people to achieve their best health, to advocate, to do everything and be everything.



Claire RollinsI grew up in Edmonton, Alberta knowing two things: I loved singing, and I wanted to become a doctor. These two things have never changed. Before coming to the University of Toronto, I completed a BA & MSc degree at McGill University in neuroscience and linguistics, and furthered my studies at the University of Alberta with an MSc in Rehabilitation Science. During this time, I continued to pursue my love of music as the Vice President of the McGill Savoy Society, and as an executive member in Edmonton’s Kokopelli Choir. Now at the University of Toronto, I am actively involved in several medical school organizations. I am the co-director of the Healing Tonics choir, the Senior Co-Executive for Out in Medicine, and this year I acted as Vocal Lead for the 107th Daffydil production. Additionally, I was accepted into the MSc program in System’s Leadership and Innovation, where I continue to develop my skills as a future physician leader.

Who is a woman, within or outside of medicine, who has inspired you and why?

I have been fortunate to know many women in medicine and academia who inspire me. One who really stands out is Dr. Pauline Pariser. Dr. Pariser is a Family Physician who is the co-founder and Lead Physician of the Taddle Creek Family Health Team. She is also the Mid-West Sub-Region Primary Care Lead for the Toronto Central LHIN and the SCOPE Physician Lead at UHN. Not only is she an incredibly caring and brilliant clinician who has previously been voted the best family physician in Toronto, but she is also a change-maker in the medical community. For example, in her role as the co-coordinator for the Mid-West Toronto Health Link, she led workshops for homeless people seeking care and training sessions for physicians willing to take on marginalized patients. I admired her the minute I met her. She is incredibly intelligent, dedicated, motivated, charismatic, and giving. She is also committed to helping a new generation of young docs get into the leadership game. From the get-go she has been willing to offer me advice, let me tag along to meetings, and tell me about her own journey. She is the kind of physician I aspire to be someday, and is the perfect example of what women in medicine can accomplish.



KARA H., INNA B., & PATRICIA H. We are Kara Hounsell, Patricia Hoyeck and Inna Berditchevskaia, 2nd year students in the MD Program. This past year, we had the chance to establish the Toronto Political Advocacy Committee (TPAC) as a homelessness student advocacy group, and work to turn an idea for a municipal lobby day into real change in the city. We’re currently asking the city to look into an information management system, an ask that 30 students spoke with 10 city councillors about. Along the way, we’ve been inspired by countless female leaders – from homeless and formerly homeless activists, to healthcare providers on the front lines to leaders within the city (both on political and administrative sides), we’ve seen strong women refuse to accept the status quo and strive to achieve positive change. We have also leaned on one another more times than we can count, and benefited from the support of peers, including some absolutely incredible women. Through this experience, and all its ongoing ups and downs, we’ve definitely seen the strength that we all have!

Who is a woman, within or outside of medicine, who has inspired you and why?

There are so many women who have inspired us along this journey! Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, whom we met with as part of the Lobby Day, inspired us by all of her advocacy and social justice work. Jo Connelly, the executive director of the Inner City Family Health Team, inspired us through her genuine care for individuals experiencing homelessness in Toronto and her dedication to educating students, opening the TPAC delegation’s eyes to the realities faced by individuals experiencing homelessness. Finally, Maya Angelou’s work has inspired us when we encountered roadblocks; the quote that spoke volumes to us was “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”


Photography by: Mollie Sivaram, Yifan Yang & Kimberly Young.


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