An anniversary of advocacy: Five years of Sumac Creek in the community

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An anniversary of advocacy: Five years of Sumac Creek in the community

Toronto, July 28, 2020

By Christy Janssens

Dr. Ritika Goel, Laura Boodram, Sarah Nestico and Dr. Danyaal Raza
Dr. Ritika Goel, Laura Boodram, Sarah Nestico and Dr. Danyaal Raza

When Jacqueline Chen started to build the team for the new Sumac Creek Family Health Team (FHT) five years ago, the goal was to have a team that the community could see themselves in.

Five years on, this team continues to work on establishing trust within the Regent Park, Moss Park and St. Jamestown communities that they serve in meaningful ways, says Chen, Clinical Leader Manager.

Recently, Sumac Creek FHT staff joined an anti-Black racism protest organized in response to racism and racist acts in the community.

“This was a concrete demonstration of how our clinic engages in community issues,” says Dr. Danyaal Raza, a physician at Sumac Creek who has been there since the beginning as the physician lead alongside Chen. “We go outside of our clinic walls. We don’t just pick up the phone and advocate for our patients. We’re being advocates in a larger sense by truly joining in.”

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Nassim Vahidi-Williams, a Community and Patient Engagement Specialist at Sumac Creek, was also at the rally.

“It is good to work alongside folks who are really committed, not only to the care that they provide patients individually, but the community as a whole,” she said.

The Family Health Team at Sumac Creek celebrated their fifth anniversary on July 13. The clinic was founded with an explicit mandate to build a practice from the surrounding community, advocating alongside the people they care for within the walls of the clinic.

Sumac Creek started with 10 physicians and members of an inter-professional health team. Now, the team has grown and serves more than 8,000 patients in the area; 44 per cent experience living with a low income.

“Building relationships is vital in the communities we serve,” says Dr. Eileen Nicolle, current physician lead at Sumac Creek. “It is a privilege to care for patients who may have been traditionally underserved in health care.”

The team has worked hard to build a foundation of partnerships in the community in order to best serve its residents.

“Some partnerships are focused on health access at an individual level. But there is another piece that is focused on population health outcomes in the community,” says Nassim Vahidi-Williams, who is a point person for making those community or individual partnerships. She also looks at the demographics of the community, where gaps in health care might be and how the clinic can address those gaps.

Dr. Raza says Sumac Creek has been a key player in a wider departmental strategy of community engagement.

This includes having dieticians from Sumac Creek lead cooking and nutrition classes at the food centre in Regent Park, leading health and wellness sessions in seniors’ buildings, and participating in anti-Black racism rallies.

The team does this with a Patient and Family Advisory Council; 12 patients who advise the Family Health Teams.

“They provide a lot of insight, and have been an integral part of our decision-making team in improving patient care and communications,” says Vahidi-Williams.

Above all, the team’s commitment to the community has continued to drive the original mandate.

“No one sees their job as clinical care alone,” says Dr. Raza. “Everybody recognizes that a normal part of what we do is constantly look for opportunities to improve the conditions in which our patients live.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

About Unity Health Toronto

Unity Health Toronto, comprised of Providence Healthcare, St. Joseph’s Health Centre and St. Michael’s Hospital, works to advance the health of everyone in our urban communities and beyond. Our health network serves patients, residents and clients across the full spectrum of care, spanning primary care, secondary community care, tertiary and quaternary care services to post-acute through rehabilitation, palliative care and long-term care, while investing in world-class research and education. For more information, visit

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