More than 900 participants joined the 60-minute virtual session hosted by UHNWomen. (Image: UHN)

The theme of International Women's Day for 2023 is embracing equity, and that was at the heart of the third annual IWD event hosted by UHNWomen.

"Equity requires sponsorship," Dr. Miyo Yamashita, President & CEO of The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, told the audience. "A mentor speaks to you. A sponsor speaks about you."

More than 900 participants joined the 60-minute virtual session hosted by UHNWomen, a working community that promotes equitable and inclusive opportunities for women to lead, grow and achieve professional fulfilment in their careers and lives.

Women make up 73 per cent of the TeamUHN and are a driving force in every area, and help shape the heart and soul of the organization. They routinely inspire those around them through their passion, skills, strength and commitment to making things better for everyone.

The event on Wednesday was no different. It featured an engaging panel discussion moderated by Deb Matthews, former Ontario Deputy Premier and Health Minister, and a Board Member of UHN Foundation. She led an engaging and honest conversation with a powerhouse group of health care leaders: Dr. Yamashita; Dr. Heather Ross, Division Head, Cardiology, Peter Munk Cardiac Centre; and Dr. Catherine Zahn, Ontario's Deputy Minister of Health.

"As an ally, you're in the fight, pushing with that person to make a difference," Dr. Zahn said.

During the event, the panelists reflected on their own experiences and discussed how the experience for women at UHN can be improved.

"It's okay to fail to sail," Dr. Ross told the audience.

Women in our workplace experience unique gender-based challenges and a broad range of inequities. These experiences impact us all.

The IWD 2023 #EmbraceEquity campaign highlights that equal opportunities are no longer enough. True inclusion comes from equity-based solutions that adapt services and policies according to the diverse lived experiences of individuals.

The event also included updates on two initiatives that support new mothers at UHN.

The Working Moms Mentorship Program provides a positive and supportive space for women from across TeamUHN who are experiencing the joys and challenges of motherhood. Mentors and mentees are matched up based on similar parenting and career journeys.

Support is provided to women before, during and after maternity leave. After launching one year ago, 21 women have been matched in the program. To learn more, contact

UHNWomen has also been deeply involved in the initiative to create secure, clean, and private space at each site for nursing mothers to express and store milk during working hours. By the end of 2023, there will be a new lactation room at eight UHN sites.

International Women's Day is an important day of celebration, education and awareness raising, actions that UHNWomen encourages and supports all year round. Learn more.

Speakers at Wednesday's Women in Transplant event included, (clockwise from top left), Dr. Lori West, registered nurse Judy Jung, Dr. Hannah Copeland and Dr. Umberin Najeeb.

UHN's Ajmera Transplant Centre launches Women in Transplant initiative

To celebrate International Women's Day, UHN's Ajmera Transplant Centre (ATC) launched an initiative aimed at providing a supportive culture to those who identify as women and are allies to women at the ATC.

Known as the Women in Transplant (WIT) initiative, its inaugural event – "Breaking Down Barriers for Women in Transplant," – featured panelists from across academia, clinical research, surgery and allied health. More than 100 women and allies attended the event in-person and virtually.

The panelists shared their experiences and discussed ideas on how to better support women advancing their career in transplantation. There was also an opportunity for attendees to ask questions.

The panelists were: Dr. Lori West, Director, Canadian Donation and Transplantation Research Program; registered nurse Judy Jung, Senior Clinical Manager of the Multi-Organ Transplant & Medical Specialities Program at the Hospital for Sick Children; Dr. Umberin Najeeb Staff Internist, Division of General Internal Medicine at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre; and Dr. Hannah Copeland, Surgical Director, Heart Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support at Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne, Ind.

"Women experience heart attacks, heart disease, differently compared to men," says Racquel Brown, a trainee at UHN's KITE Research Institute. (Photo: The KITE Research Institute)

KITE trainee bringing more attention to the need for research in heart health for women

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of premature death for women in Canada.

Each year 25,000 women – or one every 20 minutes – die as a result of cardiovascular disease.  Despite these numbers, it's estimated that two-thirds of all research in the area focuses primarily on men. 

Racquel Brown a trainee at UHN's KITE Research Institute is on a mission to change this fact. She is discussing her work to address this unmet need to mark International Women's Day.

She's teamed up with the James Lind Alliance (JLA) on a Women's Heart Health and Cardiac Rehabilitation Priority Setting Partnership on a project designed to make a difference. The JLA is a non-profit initiative that enables clinicians, patients and caregivers to work together to identify and develop research priorities.

The purpose of Brown's project is to stimulate research topics that address the priorities of people with the lived experience of heart disease and clinicians in the field of women's heart health and cardiac rehabilitation.

"This partnership is a great way of engaging and understanding the needs of people with lived experience, which research has often neglected," says Racquel, a member of KITE's Cardiorespiratory Team and a masters' student at the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute (RSI) at the University of Toronto.

"Women experience heart attacks, heart disease, differently compared to men. The structural makeup of men and women are quite different in terms of the heart size, valves, and arteries.

"This often causes failed screenings for women as equipment is designed primarily for men and not always able to detect the difference between sexes which results in misdiagnosis."

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