‘A historic moment’: Event marks official launch of Scarborough Academy of Medicine and Integrated Health

From left to right: Vijay Thanigasalam, Jill Dunlop, Wisdom Tettey, Raymond Cho, Prabmeet Sarkaria and Aris Babikian at the launch event for the new academy of medicine at U of T Scarborough (photo by Ruilin Yuan)

The new academy of medicine at the University of Toronto Scarborough will look to help build a more inclusive and compassionate health care system for Scarborough and the eastern GTA.

Plans for the Scarborough Academy of Medicine and Integrated Health (SAMIH) were officially announced Tuesday at an event held at the site of the academy's future home on campus.

Professor Wisdom Tettey, U of T vice-president and principal of U of T Scarborough, told attendees the academy will be unique in that it will recruit students from local communities in Scarborough.

“Many of the students will be talented individuals intentionally drawn from our neighbourhoods, reflecting our diverse communities, and enabling us to serve our population the best way possible,” he said. 

Tettey added that SAMIH will partner with U of T Scarborough’s recently established Institute for Inclusive Health Research, which will explore themes related to health, well-being and resilient communities.

“For us, this is yet another manifestation of UTSC’s vision of inclusive excellence.”

Vijay Thanigasalam, MPP for Scarborough-Rouge Park, called SAMIH a “historic moment” for Scarborough that will help address a critical need for health-care investments in the eastern GTA. He said training future health-care professionals at the campus will also help inspire local youth and serve the needs of Scarborough’s diverse, multicultural communities.

“It’s a dream for many young people growing up in Scarborough to go to medical school in their local community,” Thanigasalam said. “This will help make that dream a reality.”

SAMIH received funding as part of the Ontario government’s recently announced plan to increase the number of doctors in the province. Scheduled to open in 2025, SAMIH will have the capacity to graduate 30 physicians, 30 physician assistants, 30 nurse practitioners and 40 physical therapists per year, as well as 300 life science undergraduate students per year once fully operational.

Jill Dunlop, Ontario’s minister of colleges and universities, said the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted how critical health-care professionals are to health and long-term care. It also revealed the vulnerabilities in Ontario’s health-care system and the need to strengthen its workforce. 

“This new medical campus will help address the health care needs of Scarborough and the Durham Region, and promises to be a major health-care hub for training in this community,” she said. 

Jill Dunlop, Ontario’s minister of colleges and universities, said SAMIH will help address the health care needs of Scarborough and Durham Region (photo by Ruilin Yuan)

Patricia Houston, acting dean of U of T’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine, said SAMIH will be more than just a medical school. She noted that, in addition to doctors, SAMIH will educate physical therapists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and clinical psychologists.

The academy will also work alongside local community organizations and health-care providers to design education programs and support new models of care that meet the needs of Scarborough residents. Students will be embedded within local hospitals, primary care facilities and community agencies as part of their training and education.

Houston thanked the Ontario government and acknowledged the contributions from the Scarborough Health Network, Lakeridge Health, Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences, Michael Garron Hospital and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in developing the proposal for SAMIH.

“I am delighted to share this vision of SAMIH with you today,” she said. “There is considerable work ahead, but also remarkable opportunities to realize this vision together.”

Ontario’s Treasury Board president, MPP Prabmeet Sarkaria, said the creation of SAMIH will change how health care is delivered in Scarborough. He said Scarborough has been “underrepresented and underserved” for too long when it comes to health care funding.

He added that U of T is an ideal venue to house the academy in Scarborough given the university’s world-renowned research and medical school.

“A new generation of eager students will have the opportunity to become the physicians and health-care professionals that they’ve always dreamed of in their communities,” he said.