Refugee Health Primer: Optimizing Primary Care for Refugee Newcomers in the Greater Toronto Area

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MAY 1, 2020

A one-day Conference on Clinical Care and Health System Navigation for Primary Care Providers Serving Refugee Newcomers. 

Co-hosted by the Department of Family & Community Medicine and Women’s College Hospital.


This Group Learning program has been certified by the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Ontario Chapter for up to 7 Mainpro+ credits.


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At the end of this conference, participants will be able to

· Describe the refugee processing system and how it intersects with the health of refugee populations

· Identify the common and most serious health challenges that confront their refugee patients and describe an initial approach to management of these conditions

· Describe health insurance coverage for refugees and refugee claimants

· Identify the resources available in their community to help their refugee patients navigate the health care system and social supports



Refugee Schedule


Speakers Include:

Jane Batt, MD, PhD


Respirologist and Scientist, St. Michael’s Hospital

Dr. Jane Batt is a Respirologist and Scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital. Her research focuses on delineating the molecular mechanisms underlying the development of skeletal muscle atrophy. In chronic respiratory illness such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, loss of muscle mass significantly decreases quality of life, and increases health resource utilization and costs. In the critically ill patient, Intensive Care Unit acquired weakness and Critical illness myopathy prevent weaning from the ventilator, increase in-hospital mortality and in the long term rob critical illness survivors of functional independence. We lack therapies that can prevent or achieve a sustainable reversal of muscle wasting in these patient populations. Her research program i) studies the molecular biology and signalling networks regulating muscle wasting in tissue culture and rodent models, with the aim of identifying novel mediators of atrophy and ii) evaluates the activity of signalling networks and biologic processes identified as being key regulators of muscle atrophy, in human disease.


Isaac Bogoch, MD, MPH

Isaac Bogoch
Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto. Clinical Researcher, Toronto General Hospital Research Institute Staff Physician, Internal Medicine and Infectious Disease, University Health Network

Dr. Isaac Bogoch is an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto in the Department of Medicine, and is an Infectious Diseases consultant and General Internist at the Toronto General Hospital with a focus on tropical diseases, HIV, and general infectious diseases. He completed medical school and Internal Medicine residency training at the University of Toronto, and then specialized in Infectious Diseases at Harvard University. He holds a Masters Degree in Clinical Epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health, and has completed fellowships in both Tropical Infectious Diseases and HIV care. Dr. Bogoch divides his clinical and research time between Toronto and several countries in Africa and Asia. He collaborates with a team that models the spread of emerging infectious diseases, and studies innovative and simple diagnostic solutions to improve the quality of medical care in resource-constrained settings.


Jordan Feld, MD, MPH

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Senior Scientist, Toronto General Hospital Research Institute (TGHRI)

Dr. Feld graduated from medical school at the University of Toronto in 1997 and then completed residency programs in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology. Following his clinical training, Dr. Feld focused on developing skills in clinical and laboratory research in liver disease, with a particular interest in viral hepatitis. He completed a clinical research fellowship in hepatology and then spent 4 years doing clinical and laboratory research in the Liver Diseases Branch of the National Institutes of Health. He received a Masters of Public Health with a focus on Infectious Diseases as a Sommer Scholar from Johns Hopkins University and has worked extensively abroad, maintaining a strong interest in International Health. Curently, Dr. Feld is clinician-scientist based at the Toronto Western Hospital Liver Clinic and the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health.


Praseedha Janakiram, MD

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Family Physician, Crossroads Refugee Clinic, Women's College Hospital. Assistant Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto

Dr. Janakiram is a family physician at Women’s College Hospital Crossroads Clinic serving newly arrived refugees to Toronto.  With clinical interests in refugee health, HIV primary care, and women's health she is also committed to education and capacity building initiatives at multiple tiers within the university ranging from teaching clinically to educational program development and leadership. She is a program director for the Enhanced Skills Year in Global Health and Vulnerable Populations at the Department of Family and Community Medicine, and is the faculty lead of the Toronto Addis Ababa Academic Collaboration in Family Medicine where she brings energy and creativity to the innovative educational partnership supporting the development and evolution of family medicine in Ethiopia. 


Steven Meagher

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Shelter Manager, Christie Refugee Welcome Centre

Steve Meagher works as Shelter Manager for Christie Refugee Welcome Centre, an emergency shelter for refugee claimant families in Toronto. He is currently serving as co-chair of the family sector table with the Toronto Shelter Network. He is also active member of the Shelter and Housing Justice Network (SHJN), and the Ontario Coalition of Service Providers for Refugee Claimants, where he chairs the Unaccompanied Minors Working Group.


Clare Pain, MD

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Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Director of the Psychological Trauma Program at Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto

Clare Pain’s clinical focus is on the assessment and treatment of patients who continue to suffer from the effects of psychological trauma, including refugees whom she works with at the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture. She has lectured and taught on various aspects of psychological trauma including trans-cultural aspects; and increasingly on global mental health. She has published a number of articles including two books: “Trauma and the Body: a Sensorimotor Approach to Psychotherapy” with Pat Ogden and Kekuni Minton Norton 2006 and “The Impact of Early Life Trauma on Health and Disease: The Hidden Epidemic” an edited book with Eric Vermetten and Ruth Lanius, Cambridge University Press 2010


Meb Rashid, MD 

Meb Rashid
Medical Director, Crossroad’s Clinic, Women’s College Refugee Health Clinic

Dr. Meb Rashid has had the privilege of spending the last fifteen years of his career working with newly arrived refugees in Canada.  He is the medical director of the Crossroads Clinic, a medical clinic housed in Women’s College Hospital that serves refugees arriving in Toronto. He has also co-founded the Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, an organizations founded to advocate for refugees to access health insurance. He was on the steering committee of the CCIRH, a group that developed evidence based guidelines for the assessment of newly arrived immigrants and refugees and is a co-founder of the Christie Refugee Health Clinic, a health clinic located in a refugee shelter.    He has written and lectured extensively about the health of refugee populations and has a particular interest in health equity and access to health care.  He is an Assistant Professor with the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto.


Vanessa Redditt, MD

Dr. Vanessa Redditt

Family physician, Crossroads Refugee Clinic. Lecturer, Department of Community and Family Medicine, University of Toronto.

Dr. Vanessa Redditt a staff family physician at the Crossroads Clinic. Vanessa is interested in enhancing the health of marginalized individuals and communities through clinical care, health system improvement, and tackling social inequities. She is a lecturer at the University of Toronto's Department of Family and Community Medicine (DFCM) and Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Her current research focuses on better understanding the health of newly arrived refugees and their experiences in the health care system, with a goal of improving clinical practices, care delivery models, and social services to better support this population. She also serves on the board of directors of Sojourn House refugee shelter, on the steering committee of the Together Project refugee social integration program, and on the Social Accountability Committee at the DFCM. Vanessa has also previously worked in Rwanda with Partners in Health and the Ministry of Health in primary care system strengthening and health worker training.


Rachel Spitzer, MD, FRCS(C), MPH 

Rachel Spitzer
Staff Physician, General Obstetrics & Gynecology, Mount Sinai Hospital. Associate 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.  Subsequently, she attended McMaster University medical school in Hamilton, from where she returned to Toronto to pursue 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 where her clinical and research interests focus on complex contraception and adolescent pregnancy.  Rachel went on to obtain her Master’s in Public Health at Harvard University in 2007/2008 with a concentration in International Health and an interdisciplinary concentration in Women and Gender Health.  Rachel returned to Toronto as Assistant Professor in the department of Ob/Gyn at the University of Toronto in the summer of 2008 and was Faculty Lead for Global Health in the Undergraduate Medical Program from 2011-2016 and became Vice Chair of Global Health in the department of ObGyn in 2014. In 2015 she was promoted to Associate Professor in the department. Rachel is cross appointed to the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at U of T. She combines clinical practice of general and pediatric and adolescent Obstetrics and Gynecology with the practice and teaching of global women’s health.


Shazeen Suleman, MD, MPH

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.


Ellen Tang, MSW, RSW

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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

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Nurse Practitioner, Crossroads Clinic at Women's College Hospital

​Vanessa Wright works as a Nurse Practitioner at Women’s College Hospital's Crossroads Clinic, where she provides comprehensive medical services to newly arrived refugees. She has also worked across a variety of community health centres in Toronto and provided primary health care and emergency nursing care in medically under-serviced First Nation communities in Northern Ontario. In addition, Vanessa’s work as an Emergency Nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, led her to become the nursing lead for the Toronto Addis Ababa Academic Collaboration Emergency Medicine Team, where she supported the educational partnership between Addis Ababa University and the University of Toronto. Her other professional experiences include working as a Field Nurse for Doctors Without Borders in South Africa, South Sudan, Zambia, India.  She sits on the health advisory council for the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, acts as a subject matter expert for CAMH’s Immigrant and Refugee Mental Health Course, and is an association member with Doctors Without Borders.


Physicians, residents, allied health professionals and students


Women’s College Hospital (Auditorium), 76 Grenville St, Toronto, ON M5S 1B2


Registration is now open.