The Collaborative Specialization in Women’s Health was formerly known as the Collaborative Graduate Program in Women’s Health. The first program of its kind in Canada, it was established in 2006 under the leadership of Dr. Gillian Einstein (Director from 2006-2016). The home faculty for the Specialization is the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. The specialization is affiliated with the Women’s College Research Institute, a multidisciplinary research institute, with a central focus on the health of women, based at Women’s College Hospital (WCH). The Specialization is now entering its 11th year, and continuing to welcome and mentor new master’s and PhD students, as well as follow the careers of our approximately 45 Specialization graduates.
Why Women’s Health?
Women’s health issues are now more than ever a focus for health care that is on the cutting edge of patient-centered care, evidence-based medicine, and personalized medicine, and heightening an appreciation of biological diversity and gender identities among humans. For example, in biomedical research, integrating knowledge of women’s health is critical for understanding the biology underlying diversity in the etiology, progression, treatment, and prevention of disease. Through their roles often as primary caregivers in the family, the health of women affects all members of the community including men, children, and older adults.
“Women” refers to a broad gender categorization that does not necessarily correlate with one’s sex assigned at birth. We use the term therefore to include all those who self-identify as women, including cisgender women, transgender women, intersex women, and two-spirited women (Castaldi, 2015). Understanding the impact of gender and sex on health is receiving increased attention across the country; the Canadian Institutes of Health Research now expect that all research applicants integrate gender and sex considerations into their research designs where appropriate, and the Public Health Agency of Canada has identified gender as a key determinant of health.
“Participating in the Collaborative Specialization in Women’s Health has allowed me to tailor my graduate studies to my interests. The core course covers subjects that were not addressed in my other classes, and the seminars are a constant source of inspiration. This specialization is a great way to connect across disciplines with students and faculty working in the area of women’s health. I have found this to be an extremely worthwhile experience.”
Allison Branston, MPH, class of 2017
The purpose of the Collaborative Specialization in Women’s Health is to provide graduate students across the University of Toronto the opportunity to interact with and be mentored by senior academics engaged in women’s health research. Students also gain critical experience employing multidisciplinary approaches necessary to comprehensively examine women’s health and the various biological and social determinants that shape women’s lives and well-being. Regardless of the department or faculty to which they belong, all students will be given scholarly opportunities to interrogate their projects in the context of women’s health.
The Specialization promotes shared learning experiences that include student-led seminars which meet once a month and the completion of a required core course [CHL5109 H: Gender and Health] that covers a range of topics, theoretically and methodologically, including, for example, the history of women’s health, gender and sex, violence against women, masculinities). Students also have the opportunity to participate in additional learning opportunities offered through Women’s College Research Institute at Women’s College Hospital and the Women’s Xchange, and through McMaster University’s Gender and Health Education Initiative.