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Toward Compassionate Health Care for All


Agnès Berthelot-Raffard


RACISM MANIFESTS ITSELF in the health care system in many ways. Without realizing it, clinicians can internalize beliefs about Black, Indigenous and other people of colour that often result in unjust treatment. This in turn creates a climate of mistrust among racialized patients, preventing them from getting the help they need. Agnès Berthelot- Raffard is working to change this. 

As founder of the Black Student’s Mental Health Project, Berthelot-Raffard, assistant professor in the School of Health Policy & Management, is conducting a wide-ranging investigation into the experiences of Black university students, who experience elevated rates of anxiety and depression compared to non BIPOC students. Another of her large projects examines how Black women in Quebec experience racial bias in obstetrics and gynecology. 

Berthelot-Raffard’s research is groundbreaking as a great deal of existing health data on Black patients pertains only to Americans. “Our population is very different,” she says, “in that 40 percent of Black people in Canada are immigrants. We are much more diverse in terms of origin and language.” 

A social ethicist by training, Berthelot-Raffard says that “even when I’m doing quantitative analysis, I’m still a philosopher. My research is shaped by one question: how do institutions shape the experiences of people who use them?” 

The data she is currently collecting will help inform decision makers to pave the way toward a more compassionate system of health care for all. “I expect that transformation is possible,” she says. “The fact that research like this is being funded is what gives me hope: ten years ago, it wouldn’t have been possible.”