Sep 22, 2023  |  7:30am - 5:00pm

Refugee Health Primer: Optimizing Primary Care for Refugee Newcomers


This is a collaboration between the University of Toronto, Department of Family & Community Medicine & Women’s College Hospital, Women’s College Hospital

WHEN: Friday, Sept. 22, 2023 from 7:30 am – 5:00 pm

WHERE: Women’s College Hospital, (Auditorium) 76 Grenville St, Toronto, ON

Register today

Conference Details:

The Refugee Primer will provide clinicians with practical skills to address the unique needs of newly arrived refugees to Canada. This one-day conference will allow clinicians to identify common and serious health challenges that confront their refugee patients and describe an approach to management of these conditions. It will also help clinicians identify resources to address the existing resource gaps that arise in the care of refugee populations. The Primer will provide opportunities to health care providers to participate in and join existing networks of refugee serving clinicians.

We believe that the sharing of this knowledge will address systemic and structural health inequities faced by refugees. Embrace a community-serving mindset in the curriculum that pays special attention to health equity in considering population health outcomes and social &structural determinants of health, including training in patient and system advocacy.

Speakers Include:

Dr. Meb Rashid

Dr. Rashid has had the privilege of working with newly arrived refugees for nearly twenty years. He is the medical director of the Crossroads Clinic, a medical clinic that serves refugees arriving in Toronto. He also co-founded the Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, an organization founded to advocate for refugees to access health insurance and was on the steering committee of the CCIRH, a group that developed evidence-based guidelines for the assessment of newly arrived immigrants and refugees. He is a co-founder of the Christie Refugee Health Clinic, a health clinic located in a refugee shelter. He is on staff at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto and is an Assistant Professor with the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Shazeen Suleman

Staff Physician, Department of Pediatrics Outreach Services, St. Michael’s Hospital. Co-Founder and President of MusicBox Children’s Charity

Dr. Shazeen Suleman is a staff physician in the Department of Pediatrics, Outreach Services at St. Michael's Hospital. She completed her pediatric residency at the Hospital for Sick Children and her medical degree at the University of British Columbia, where she was named a Wesbrook Scholar. She completed a master's of public health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in 2017, where she was a Sommer Scholar.

At St. Michael's Hospital, Dr. Suleman provides consulting general pediatrics care for children living in the inner-city, including urban Indigenous, refugee and immigrant children. She is a consultant pediatrician with the Model Schools Pediatric Health Initiative, and is the research lead for K!DConnect, a pediatric patient navigation program at St. Michael's Hospital. Her academic interests involve the development and evaluation of evidence-based programs to support newcomer and vulnerable children.

Outside of the clinic, she is the co-founder and president of the MusicBox Children's Charity, a national organization that has provided music education opportunities to more than 5000 vulnerable children across Canada. She is a founding member of the Social Pediatrics Special Interest Group and was involved with the Caring for Kids New to Canada task force. She is an assistant editor for Paediatrics & Child Health, the official journal of the Canadian Paediatric Society. She is actively involved in medical education, and frequently gives guest lectures, presentations and workshops to all levels of medical trainees.

Dr. Clare Pain

Clare Pain MD, MSc., FRCPC., D.Sc (Hons) Addis Ababa University (AAU), Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto (UofT), and psychoanalyst. Staff psychiatrist at Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto; the Canadian Center for Victims of Torture for refugee mental health and the clinic for indigenous mental health, with the Community Mental Health Program and Addictions Program; a Division of Weeneebayko Area Health Authority.

She is the founder and senior strategist of the Toronto Addis Ababa Academic Collaboration, an educational partnership between AAU and the UofT, working to strengthen educational capacity and sustainability in graduate training at AAU. In 2014 she was awarded an honorary doctorate for assisting the development of psychiatry in Ethiopia.

Her clinical focus is the assessment and treatment of individuals, including refugees, who continue to suffer from the complex effects of psychological trauma. She has lectured and taught on various aspects of psychological trauma and global mental health. She has published a number of articles and books.

Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, MD

Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti is originally from Sarnia ON. He completed his MD at the University of Western Ontario (Schulich School of Medicine) and his internal medicine and infectious diseases residencies at the University of Toronto. He has a special interest in tropical medicine, specifically in imported diseases and post-travel medicine in returned travellers as well as immigrants. He trained with the late Dr. Jay Keystone and completed his Diploma of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene in Peru.

Currently, he works as an Infectious Diseases consultant at Trillium Health Partners. He is the Division Head for Infectious Diseases and is also involved in medical education, previously as the Internal Medicine Clerkship lead. He has a busy clinical practice seeing all types of tropical infections including, but not limited to, malaria, typhoid, tuberculosis, strongyloidiasis, hydatid disease etc. 

Dr. Kamran Khan

Dr. Kamran Khan is a staff physician with the Division of Infectious Diseases at St. Michael’s Hospital, a scientist at Unity Health Toronto’s Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, and a Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto. Kamran has over 20 years of clinical experience in tuberculosis, working at St. Michael’s Hospital and the Toronto Western Hospital TB clinics. He has published extensively on the management of TB in immigrant and refugee populations, including co-authoring several chapters of the Canadian TB Standards.

Kamran has also been studying emerging global infectious diseases for the past two decades. To translate and disseminate scientific knowledge into timely action during public health emergencies, Kamran founded BlueDot, a global epidemic intelligence company that supports governments and private enterprises in strengthening their readiness and resilience to epidemics. His work has led him into numerous advisory roles from the World Health Organization to the White House. Kamran has been the recipient of a Governor General’s Award for his research transcending clinical medicine, public health, and artificial intelligence and holds a Temerty Health Nexus Chair in Innovation and Technology at the University of Toronto.

Steve Meagher

Steve Meagher works as the Director at the Centre for Refugee Children, an initiative providing settlement services and legal support to refugee and migrant children in Ontario. Prior to opening the Centre in 2021, he worked as Shelter Manager at Christie Refugee Welcome, an emergency shelter for refugee claimant families in Toronto. He chairs the Unaccompanied and Separated Children Network, which brings together organizations from various sectors to address issues and barriers that unaccompanied refugee children and youth continue to face across the province.

Ellen Tang, RSW

Social Worker, Crossroads Refugee Health Clinic, Women’s College Hospital

Ellen Tang provides psychosocial assessment and mental health counselling services as part of the Crossroads Refugee Health Clinic team. She received her training as a clinician at the University of Toronto and the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH). She has an interest in culturally responsive mental health services, the social determinants of health, and migrant justice. She is a member of the Health and Mental Health Working Group of the Toronto South Local Immigration Partnership.

Vanessa Wright, RN

Vanessa Wright is a nurse practitioner at Women's College Hospital's Crossroads Clinic. As a pioneering member of the clinic, Vanessa has developed and implemented models of primary care outreach to support those navigating the refugee process. Vanessa's professional experience includes working across primary, acute, and public health domains and facilitating teams in medical outreach, education and interprofessional practice both locally and globally. Vanessa is a subject matter expert for CAMH's Immigrant and Refugee Mental Health Course and a co-chair for the Mid-West OHT's under-housed working group. Vanessa's research interests lie in population health, organizational learning, health system integration and health policy. She is a Doctoral candidate exploring the relationship between integrated care and community engagement.

Semhar Musael

My name is Semhar Musael, working as a Patient Peer Navigator at the Crossroads Clinic in Women’s College Hospital. This is a new role which was implemented one year ago with a purpose to provide a peer support to our newcomer patients. The role focus on providing connection support to patients with external health care providers and also with social service provider/community resources. As a newcomer myself (I came to Canada 2 and half years ago) I saw how challenging it is to navigate the health care system here in Canada. I was wondering if Me being educated and had prior exposure with the western world being challenged this much how come a person who has a language barrier and no prior experience will survive. I love doing my job as we are making real change in people’s life and easing the hard road newcomers are passing through…"

Dr. Praseedha Janakiram 

MD, CCFP, FCFP, MPH Candidate Advanced Standing, Family and Community Medicine

Praseedha Janakiram is a Family Physician at Women’s College Hospital Crossroads Refugee Clinic and an Assistant Professor at the DFCM. Her primary care practice is focused on the care of refugees and community-based HIV primary care with special interests in refugee and global health education, as well as capacity-strengthening initiatives and partnerships.

Praseedha has held leadership roles including Program Director of Enhanced Skills in Global Health at the DFCM, Acting Vice Chair of Global Health and Social Accountability in 2019, and is the current Faculty Lead for the Toronto Addis Ababa Academic Collaboration in Family Medicine. Praseedha has recently been named Theme Lead of the New and Evolving Academic Leaders Program at the Center for Faculty Development at the University of Toronto. Her work and engagement have been recognized through numerous awards in leadership, education and global health. 

Dr. Rachel Spitzer

Staff Physician, General Obstetrics & Gynecology, Mount Sinai Hospital. Professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of Toronto

Dr. Rachel Spitzer grew up in Montreal and Toronto and obtained her BSc at McGill University in Montreal. She completed medical school at McMaster and residency training in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Toronto. This was followed by fellowship training at The Hospital for Sick Children in Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology. Rachel went on to obtain her MPH at Harvard University in 2007/2008 with a concentration in International Health and an interdisciplinary concentration in Women and Gender Health. Rachel combines clinical practice of general and pediatric, and adolescent Obstetrics and Gynecology with the practice and teaching of global women's health. She acts as Vice Chair, Global Health and Fellowship Director, Global Women's Health and Equity at the University of Toronto Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Mia Biondi, PhD, NP-PHC 

Mia Biondi, PhD, NP-PHC, received her PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from McGill University, with postdoctoral fellowships at Toronto General Research Institute and the National Microbiology Laboratory. Mia completed her clinical training at Western University to become a Registered Nurse and then Nurse Practitioner.  

Mia is an Assistant Professor at York University, and leads the Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner program. At present her research focuses on increasing hepatitis B, C, and HIV screening and treatment through alternative diagnostic and systems approaches. Clinically, Mia is a practicing Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner in refugee and newcomer health.

Program Agenda 

Time Slot







Welcome, Goals, Introductions

Meb Rashid, MD
Melanie Henry, MD
Danielle Martin, MD
Heather McPherson, MD


Overview of Refugee Migration

Meb Rashid, MD


The Refugee Experience

Rebecca Saburi


Failure to Thrive in Refugee Children

Shazeen Suleman, MD, MPH





Refugee Mental Health

Clare Pain, MD


Parasitic Infections in Refugees

Sumon Chakrabarti, MD






Kamran Khan, MD


Hepatitis B & C

Mia Biondi, PhD, NP-PHC


Health Policy & Advocacy

Steve Meagher
Ellen Tang, MSW, RSW
Vanessa Wright, RN, EC





Interim Federal Health Insurance & System Navigation

Semhar Musael


Women's Health

Praseedha Janakiram, MD &
Rachel Spitzer, MD, FRCS(C), MPH


Closing Remarks

Meb Rashid, MD
Melanie Henry, MD

This one-credit-per-hour Group Learning program meets the certification criteria of the College of Family Physicians of Canada for up to 7.5 Mainpro+® credits.

For any questions, please contact

Doctor talking with mother and child