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Dr. Stephen Hwang of St. Michael’s Hospital appointed inaugural chair in homelessness, housing and health

Toronto, January 29, 2013

Dr. Stephen Hwang
Dr. Stephen Hwang

Dr. Stephen Hwang, a physician and researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital, has been appointed the hospital’s first endowed Chair in Homelessness, Housing and Health.

This is believed to be the first hospital-based chair in homelessness in the world. It will support research and innovation in the provision of care to marginalized populations, both locally and nationally.

“The chair will enable us to do world-class research that develops solutions to some of the most challenging health and social problems facing cities today,” said Dr. Hwang, among the world’s most influential researchers in homelessness.

“Our research program will address three major themes: improving health care for homeless and vulnerably housed people who have long-term conditions such as diabetes, chronic pain, and mental illness; addressing unmet health needs among people who are homeless, thereby reducing avoidable emergency department visits and hospitalizations; and understanding how to end homelessness through innovative housing and support programs.”

Dr. Hwang was recruited to St. Michael’s in 1996 to spearhead research in the Inner City Health Program, out of which grew the Centre for Research on Inner City Health, Canada’s only hospital-based research organization focused on the health consequences of social inequality. His research has shone a light on the severe health risks faced by homeless and vulnerably housed people in Canada.

In addition to his position as a Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute research scientist, Dr. Hwang is a leading investigator in the At Home study, which is examining the effectiveness of a housing and support intervention for people who are homeless and have serious mental illness. He is also the leader of the Research Alliance for Canadian Homelessness, Housing and Health (REACH3), which includes some of Canada's leading academic researchers and community organizations with expertise on homelessness. He is the principal investigator for the Health and Housing in Transition study, which is following the health and housing status of 1,200 homeless and vulnerably housed single adults in Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa.

Dr. Hwang also sees patients in the hospital’s Division of General Internal Medicine, and conducts a half-day a week clinic at Seaton House in downtown Toronto, Canada’s largest shelter for men. He is also an associate professor at the University of Toronto.

The chair is for a five-year term that began on Jan. 1.

“I’m truly honoured to be named the inaugural Chair in Homelessness, Housing and Health at St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto,” Dr. Hwang said. “I want to express my deep gratitude to John Barford and the many donors whose great generosity has made the chair a reality.”