Mar 11, 2024

Humans of DFCM—Cindy Sinclair

Humans of DFCM, Education, Faculty, Residency

Cindy Sinclair, PhD, has spent decades supporting and empowering International Medical Graduates coming to U of T for postgraduate education, first as administrative staff and now as academic faculty

Headshot of Cindy Sinclair
“In this crucial time of growing health care demands, IMGs have an array of talents that should be harnessed beyond residency and integrated into the health system. They have valuable skills in compassionate and culturally diverse care and bring unique perspectives into their training and practice.”

Cindy Sinclair, PhD, joined the Department of Family and Community Medicine (DFCM) as administrative staff in 1988. More than three decades later, in 2021, she received a faculty appointment, a reflection of her efforts to integrate International Medical Graduates (IMGs) in postgraduate training and address inequities they face. Today, she is the founder and president of Sinclair Consulting Services, a company dedicated to empowering immigrant health professionals and their integration into the Canadian health workforce and society.

As an immigrant herself, Sinclair’s passion stems from her personal experience coming to Canada as a teenager and one family member’s journey studying medicine abroad.

“My uncle was a symbol of success and pride to our family and everyone in our community in Guyana,” she says. “He returned home as a member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of England. When I see the challenges immigrant doctors experience in Canada, I think of my uncle. My path to postgraduate medical education took a longer route, but I knew that one day I’d reach my goal of understanding my uncle’s journey.”

After spending a few years as a typist at U of T, Sinclair joined the Department of Surgery in 1979, working in finance and procurement. She then moved to the Dean’s office where she was involved in faculty appointments and promotions at the decanal level. In both positions, she became acquainted with joint hospital administration and dossiers for faculty promotions. When she saw an opening for an assistant position in the DFCM Postgraduate program in 1988, she applied and stayed with the department for 10 years.

“At first, I was the administrative assistant to Dr. Larry Librach with the Toronto Western Family Health Team,” she says. “I saw residents in training and worked with the staff to manage their training experience. Then I moved to Toronto General Hospital and assumed the additional role of administrative assistant for the Teaching Practices program. Both roles gave me the opportunity to work with the medical education administration and with residents from recruitment through to licensure.”

During her time with DFCM, Sinclair was also involved in the establishment of the Division of Emergency Medicine as administrative assistant to former division head Dr. Eric Letovsky, and worked with Dr. Helen Batty as her executive assistant on the development of graduate studies programs. But importantly, she heard directly from residents about their successes and challenges. This is something she carried with her when she left DFCM for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology’s postgraduate program.

“In all of these positions, I was able to see postgraduate education from the residents’ perspective,” she says. “I saw the challenges they experienced—especially IMGs—and I became their confidant. This was my jumping off point for an academic career of my own.”

She received a Bachelor of Arts from U of T in 2005, a master’s in Sociology and Equity Studies in Education with the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in 2009, and her PhD in social justice education and workplace learning and social change in 2017. While studying, she carefully chose courses to challenge her understanding of IMGs, such as the history of medicine, globalization, immigration, curriculum development, anti-racism, and adult learning in higher education.

In 2021, while consulting between DFCM and international schools in an effort to collaborate on postgraduate family medicine education, Sinclair applied for an academic appointment with the department. She received the support of Interim Chair Dr. David Tannenbaum, Vice-Chair of Research Dr. Peter Selby, and Office of Education Scholarship Director, Dr. Mahan Kulasegaram, coming full circle from administrative staff to academic faculty.

“This appointment is critical to my goal of advocating for change, equity, diversity, and inclusion in family medicine education and practice,” she says. “In this crucial time of growing health care demands, IMGs have an array of talents that should be harnessed beyond residency and integrated into the health system. They have valuable skills in compassionate and culturally diverse care and bring unique perspectives into their training and practice.”

Sinclair received a Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award in 2023 for what she does naturally—helping immigrants like herself find their footing and success in Canada.

“I am grateful for this recognition,” she says. “It symbolizes my dedication to helping newcomers become successful and contribute to Canadian society. It also acknowledges the hard work of millions of immigrants who have helped build this country.”

True to her passion, Sinclair is currently working on developing a curriculum to support intercultural education with the inclusion of diverse intercultural and interprofessional talents. She also supports and is a mentor for immigrant women doctors under the Immigrant Women Medical Doctors of Colour Circle, which she established in 2021.

Sinclair’s journey is a rich one, spanning decades and encompassing multiple roles. But through it all, her dedication to U of T, postgraduate medical education, and immigrant health professionals has not wavered. She is grateful for her multifaceted life and career, and to U of T and DFCM for igniting her passion for education and innovation.

Fun facts about Cindy Sinclair

Humans of DFCM is a monthly news series profiling the department’s faculty, staff, and learners. If you know someone who you think should be part of this series, please email