Dalhousie Medical School in Halifax now has its first academic director of Black Health.
Dr. Leah Jones is from Dartmouth, N.S., and has been in the role since September. She’s working to ensure Black medical students are supported during their training.
CBC Nova Scotia News host Amy Smith interviewed her on Friday.
This is a condensed version of their conversation that has been edited for clarity and length.
You wanted to be a doctor from a very young age. What was that road like?
My mom is a registered nurse, so she kind of fostered this path of caring for people my whole life. So I watched her as a great example. And then I always knew I wanted to be making decisions at tables and advocating for people of my community — being African Nova Scotian. And so I sought out different opportunities in different sectors, but then always kept coming back to health care. And so it was a perfect fit to get into medical school and become a family physician.
Did you have many African Nova Scotian medical role models?
Unfortunately not in medicine, not a ton. However, there have been a lot of role models in my life who are Black. I have strong Black women in my family and my father is a strong Black man. And I also have a lot of people here at Dalhousie who have been advocates for me and instilled confidence from my first day as an undergraduate. However, I never met any Black physicians growing up.
How will this new role help you help Black students in the field of medicine?
So one of the main things that I’m working at achieving, currently in this role, is to develop the Black learner admissions pathway. I’m the chair of the Black learner admissions subcommittee of the general admissions committee for Dalhousie Medicine. This subcommittee is made up of Black faculty, students, community members, and we’re coming together to make a stream that’s more equitable for Black learners to break down some barriers they face.
What kind of feedback have you gotten so far?
So far there’s been great feedback and we’re pushing this forward as fast as we can and the admissions committee has already accepted what we’ve proposed. Across the country, similar pathways are in existence over the last couple years. After 2020 and everything, we saw anti-Black racism [and] the effects it had on the community. [We also saw] how COVID-19 has disproportionately affected members of the Black community. So there’s a great appetite and everyone’s really listening. It’s a great time for this.
Nova Scotia, like other provinces, is facing a pretty severe doctor shortage. What role do you think your work will do in maybe helping ease that?
With this role, I hope to be a familiar face at the medical school for students to come and ask questions and get support from. And as we increase numbers at Dal Med, I’m hoping that they can see that it’s a great place to work as well.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.