Upcoming Events

LHS Seminar Series

Note: The LHS Seminar Series is only available to WCH staff and physicians.

Women’s College Hospital is on the journey to becoming a Learning Health System (LHS) – fostering a culture of curiosity and engagement where everyone is continuously asking thoughtful questions about current processes, delivery, and outcomes, to determine if and where we’re adding value and how we can work together to enact improvements.

As part of this commitment, WCH Academics holds a virtual LHS Seminar Series where speakers are invited each month to share their experiences with an LHS, what resources are required, the value-added, and how it might impact the way in which they conduct their work.

2024-2025 Seminars

Date Speaker Organization
March 5, 2024 Dr. Lillian Sung, Dr. Adam Yan, Dr. Lin Guo The Hospital for Sick Children
April 9, 2024 Dr. Peter Margolis James M. Anderson Centre for Health Systems Excellence
May 2, 2024 Dr. William E. Smoyer The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital
June 11, 2024 Dr. Blanca Bolea Alamanac Women’s College Hospital

Note: The LHS Seminar Series is only available to WCH staff and physicians.


September 12, 2023: The Who, What, Why and How of Learning Health Systems

October 10, 2023: Learning Health Systems: Power to Patients

November 14, 2023: Frameworks, guidelines, and tools to develop an LHS for Indigenous health.

December 19, 2023: Recap of LHSs + Introduction to New LHS Toolkit

Women’s College Hospital’s Day of Excellence in Academics celebrates achievements in research, innovation, quality improvement, practice, collaboration, teaching and mentorship. As an organization focused on healthcare innovation and system solutions, WCH is implementing a Learning Health System. This approach requires integrating research, key learnings, feedback and quality improvement into everyday processes to provide high-quality patient care.

The goals and objectives of this event are to:

  1. Promote the breadth and diversity of academic excellence in research, education, and quality improvement (showcase work and support inclusivity)
  2. Fostering collaboration and networking among staff, learners, and physicians at WCH towards a learning health system (network)
  3. Celebrating achievements that drive our revolution of healthcare (awards)
  4. Providing professional development opportunities for those pursuing advancement in research, education and quality improvement (opportunities)

Activity Schedule
Time Duration
Ruderman Lecture LectureFireside chat (Q&A) 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM 60 mins
*Poster/Networking Break* 1:00 PM – 1:30 PM 30 mins
Interprofessional Oral Presentations 1:30 PM – 2:45 PM 75 mins
*Poster/Networking Break* 2:45 PM – 3:15 PM 30 mins
Awards Ceremony 3:15 – 4:00 PM 45 mins
*Please note, all programming will be presented in a hybrid format – both onsite at WCH and virtually on Zoom.To learn more about the 2023 Day of Excellence at WCH click here.

Women of Gairdner 2023

Women’s College Hospital, in partnership with the Gairdner Foundation, are hosting the second annual Women of Gairdner event during Gairdner Science Week. Through panel discussion, storytelling and interactive dialogue, Canada Gairdner Award laureates Drs. Gelareh Zadeh, Bonnie L. Bassler and Lynne E. Maquat will share insights into their unique career paths, research, and the challenges they have faced, as well as the need for greater equity and inclusion within the health sciences fields.

High school students are invited to attend the discussion and will have the opportunity to take part in educational activities and a networking event where they will broaden their understanding of science and knowledge systems, build their networking skills, and connect with scientists, researchers, and other students.

On October 25th, 2023, Women’s College Hospital (WCH) in partnership with the Gairdner Foundation, hosted the second annual Women of Gairdner event, a panel event featuring Gairdner Laureates, Dr. Gelareh ZadehDr. Bonnie L. Bassler and Dr. Lynne E Maquat. With the goal of inspiring young minds to pursue health sciences, more than 70 high school students from diverse backgrounds and communities were in attendance. They came to listen to inspiring talks from powerful women in science, engage in networking opportunities with WCH healthcare experts and to learn about the global health impact of scientific contributions.

“The more diverse our backgrounds, experience and viewpoints, the better we’re equipped to explore new realms of study, tackle disparities and approach problem-solving with an equity-focused lens,” says Dr. Rulan Parekh, vice president of Academics at WCH, during her opening remarks. “This is what we need in healthcare to keep moving forward. This is why we need events like today.”

In a field where only six per cent of practicing neurosurgeons are female, Dr. Gelareh Zadeh is redefining what it means to be a woman in STEM. As the Dan Family Chair in the Neurosurgery Division at the University of Toronto, she is the first woman in Canada to be named neurosurgery chair. “I’ve never operated with a surgeon who is more senior than me,” she said. “In other words, I’ve never had a female surgeon teaching neurosurgery.” With 80 per cent of women in neurosurgery reporting a lack of mentorship, Dr. Zadeh dreams of seeing a world with more women entering the field.

Dr. Bonnie L. Bassler transformed the field of microbiology focusing on bacterial communication – a process now called quorum sensing. “I majored in biochemistry and plucked up the courage to ask my professor if I could work in his lab,” she said. “This is important for women – you need to ask. I asked and never looked back.” Dr. Bassler’s findings have opened the door to groundbreaking opportunities for biological solutions to the world’s most urgent challenges in health, food, energy and the environment. “It is amazing to be the first person in the universe to have an idea and to make the discovery.”

Dr. Lynne E. Maquat received the International Gairdner Award for her discovery of the mechanism that destroys mutant messenger mRNAs in human cells, known as nonsense-mediated mRNA decay. Like Dr. Bassler, she fueled her passion in science when she asked her professor to work in his biology lab. “I was shaking in my boots when I asked him,” she said. Dr. Maquat would later advance our understanding of the molecular basis of human diseases, paving the way for “personalized” or “precision” medicine tailored to each patient’s specific disease mutation. She emphasized the importance of being humble and constantly curious. “Having trained students and postdocs for many years, it is much easier to work with someone who fears they don’t know enough than thinks they know more than they do,” she said.

After the presentations, the laureates participated in a Q&A session, taking questions from both the audience and the moderators, Nya Blades and Mechaela Alfonso, who were both recent WCH summer students.

“I found the Q&A portion to be valuable because they offered practical advice and insights on the equity challenges experienced by women in research and medicine, including those faced by the laureates themselves,” said Nya. “The highlight of the event was listening to the laureates explain their failures, successes, and overall career journeys. This inspired me because I realized that our career journeys are not linear, and setbacks can be useful!”

Following the Q&A, students had the opportunity to connect with the laureates, as well as WCH scientists and healthcare professionals. With 18 networkers, ranging from family physicians to PhD students, counsellors and nurses, students got to know each other and learn from experts in research and medicine.

As an organization founded on the belief that equity fosters healthcare excellence and drives groundbreaking achievements, we are dedicated to guiding aspiring health scientists and clinicians at every level of education.

The second inaugural Women of Gairdner event was a resounding success and we’re excited for next year. Thank you to everyone who made this event possible – especially the students – the next generation of scientists and researchers!

Healthy Cities, Healthy People

Today, four in five people in Canada live in urban areas. Urbanization and densification are only expected to increase in the coming years. We know that our built environment – the homes we live in, the transit systems we use, our community spaces and the services available to us – all affect our physical and mental health. Put simply we are not immune from our environment. And yet, discussions linking our quality of health and our city landscapes are lacking.

On November 8, 2023, Women’s College Hospital (WCH) hosted Healthy Cities, Healthy People its first in a series of annual health-focused public events. Funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Café Scientifique grant, Healthy Cities, Healthy People brought together a diverse group of presenters and attendees for a lively and interactive program exploring how our urban landscape impacts our health and wellbeing.

After opening remarks from WCH executive leaders Heather McPherson and Dr. Rulan Parekh, and video remarks from Toronto Mayor Oliva Chow, the speaking sessions began moderated by Vicky Forster, patient & community engagement lead at WCH.

Speakers and presentation topics included:

Name Title  Topic
Bianca Wylie Writer & Public Interest Technology Advocate Digital Rights and Responsibilities: How Public Health Practices and Digital Transformation Come Together in the City
Esmond Lee Artist, Architect, PhD Student – Critical Human Geography Migration and Settlement in Toronto’s Suburban Landscape
Dr. Blanca Bolea Alamanac Assistant Professor, University of Toronto and Psychiatrist, Women’s College Hospital Healthy Cities, Resilient Minds
Dr. Beth Coleman Associate Professor, University of Toronto Healthy Cities & Empowered People: The Perils and Promise of Health Data
Diana Chan McNally Community Worker, Educator and Advocate Public Space for the Public Good: Human Rights and Homelessness in Public Parks
Nicole Austin Black-led Programs Coordinator Food Sovereignty Advocate, Toronto Metropolitan University Urban Farm Food Justice in Action: The Urban Farm at TMU
Arlene Throness Urban Farm Manager, Toronto Metropolitan University Urban Farm

While the speakers’ areas of expertise differed, there were multiple commonalities across their presentations.   The importance of health equity and the recognition that not all city residents have access to the same degree of services and supports was continually stressed. Investigating how city design, policy and practice can advance health equity was a consistent focus across all presentations.

Another reoccurring theme or concept was the idea of a “third place” – a space outside of home or work where people can spend time connecting and engaging with community. Community gardens or urban farms, municipal parks, train stations, coffee shops and places of worship are all potential “third places”. Not only do third places help to boost mental health, reducing feelings of depression and isolation, they enable people to engage meaningfully with the world around them.

As the speaking sessions wrapped up, attendees were invited to take part in three possible interactive events. The first was a community photography exhibit with the photographers onsite for questions and discussion. The second was a virtual reality (VR) headset experience allowing participants to “walk” through major urban centres around the globe. And the third was an activity called “Conversations with Neighbours” where attendees could have one-on-one conversations with volunteers about their diverse life experiences and health challenges. In addition to the three interactive components, attendees were also encouraged to network and get to know each other.

Thank you to all the speakers and attendees for taking part! Health Cities, Healthy People was a resounding success. By sharing relatable research evidence and engaging directly with our communities, we can advance collaboration, education, and action on urban health.

International Day of Women & Girls in Science poster

In celebration of International Day of Women and Girls in Science, join a panel discussion featuring women leaders from top research institutes & learn about their inspiring journeys into science. Hear from:

  • Janet Rossant, Chief of Research Emeritus, The Hospital for Sick Children
  • Rulan Parekh, Vice President of Academics at Women’s College Hospital
  • Evdokia Anagnostou, Vice President of Research at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital
  • Anne-Claude Gingras, Vice President of Research, Sinai Health
  • Allison Sekular, President & Chief Scientist, Baycrest Academy for Research and Education
*Register for the Feb 9th virtual panel here.