International Women’s Day is celebrated each year on March 8th to recognize the immeasurable contributions women have made to the world and draw attention to the ongoing fight for gender equality. This year’s celebration is even more important as women deserve to be uplifted and empowered after facing disproportionate impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. The economic disruption caused women's participation in Canada’s labour force to reach the lowest level in 3 decades due to COVID-19. This has especially impacted women of colour who are still experiencing greater work inequalities. Studies are also showing that women are experiencing lower levels of mental health due to pandemic-related stress and anxiety. This is why for our celebration of International Women’s Day, we have decided to shine a spotlight on women leading across Canada in the healthcare sector.
Dr. Fozia AlviDr. Fozia Alvi is a family physician, humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize nominee based in Calgary. She is from Pakistan where she has now opened a charity-based maternity hospital along with creating many health and education projects in developing nations. Her work has especially focused on Rohingya Muslims who are facing religious persecution in Bangladesh. She has admirably provided medical care to refugee camps and is working to raise awareness around the crisis. She currently runs her own foundation called Humanity Auxilium that organizes medical relief missions.
Samanta Krishnapillai is an equity-oriented health scientist from Markham, Ontario. She started the On COVID-19 Project to fight misinformation and share credible, concise and Canadian-focused health information over social media. Samanta has a master’s degree in health information science which spurred her to begin answering questions about COVID-19 on her personal Instagram but then realized there was a need for the straightforward health communication she was providing. She now has more than 100 volunteers aged 18 to 35 that are helping to grow the resource and continue making a difference.
Sané Dube is a community health policy leader based out of Toronto, Ontario. She works as the Policy and Government Relations Lead, with a focus on Black health, at the Alliance for Healthier Communities. She has been working to raise awareness and urge action around the simultaneous health crises of COVID-19 and anti-Black racism. Sané advocated for the collection of race-based data that helped to prove the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on Black and racialized communities. Studies have now shown that Black Canadians are more likely to get sick and be hospitalized for COVID-19. This work contributed to the overdue declaration of anti-Black racism as a public health crisis by the Toronto Board of Health in June 2020.
Lynda Brown-Ganzert is the CEO of Curatio which provides private social health networks to connect and empower patients, increase adherence and improve healthcare outcomes. She has founded three tech startups and led over 100 projects intending to use digital media to improve health, education and business. In response to the pandemic, she created the ‘Stronger Together’ project that facilitates a peer support platform, coaching from nurses and experts, health literacy and daily check-ins for both patients and families. The project is working to make compassionate communication and healthcare resources available virtually. In addition to her work at Curatio, she is the Chair Emerita for Simon Fraser University and Director for the Canada Foundation for Innovation.
Dr. Margo Greenwood
Dr. Margo Greenwood is a professor of First Nation Studies and Education at the University of Northern BC. She is an Indigenous scholar of Cree ancestry and the Academic Leader of the National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health. Her work focuses on early childhood care, the education of Indigenous children and public health. Dr. Greenwood has worked with UNICEF, the United Nations and the Canadian Reference Group to the World Health Organization Commission on Social Determinants. She has been recognized for her tremendous work with the Queen’s Jubilee medal, Perry Shawana Child Care Award and National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Education.
Dr. Christina Greenaway
Dr. Christina Greenway is an infectious disease physician, clinician-researcher and associate professor in the Department of Medicine at McGill University. Her research and focus have been on migrant health and specifically health disparities related to infectious diseases. She established the tuberculosis (TB) clinic at the Jewish General Hospital and is currently working to develop a risk prediction tool for the development of TB among migrants. Her work is making a difference for migrant health outcomes in Canada.
Dr. Gigi Osler
Dr. Gigi Osler is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Manitoba, Chair of the Canadian Medical Forum, President-elect of the Federation of Medical Women of Canada, and past president of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). Dr. Osler was the first female surgeon and the first woman of colour to hold the position of CMA president. As CMA President, she headed the first-ever delegations to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the UN Climate Change Conference and Women Deliver. She is an inspiration to young women and works towards empowering women and other underrepresented groups in medical leadership and academia.
Canada Chief Medical Officers: Dr. Theresa Tam, Dr. Bonnie Henry, Dr. Deena Hinshaw
Artist Mandy Stobo
The leaders of Canada’s response to COVID-19 across the country have been women. From Dr. Theresa Tam as the Chief Public Health Officer to Dr. Bonnie Henry in British Columbia, Dr. Deena Hinshaw in Alberta, Dr. Jennifer Russell in New Brunswick and more. These women have gained international acclaim for their approach and leadership during an unprecedented time in their positions. Their prominence is a recognized inspiration for Canadians and women in health everywhere.
All of the women featured are paving the way for women to continue leading in Healthcare around the world. But, there is still a long way to go to reach equality in the medical field. Only 12% of Canada’s deans of medicine are women and are consistently underrepresented across leadership positions. The recognition and amplification of women fighting against these statistics is critical to encouraging other women to follow in their path. We celebrate the women mentioned here and all women in healthcare this International Women’s Day and all year round as we support an equal and empowered future for healthcare.