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Leader in Black Studies

As the James Robinson Johnston (JRJ) Chair in Black Canadian Studies, Dr. OmiSoore Dryden is fostering community outreach, and working to provide greater representation of Black health within medical education.

Innovation: Dr. Dryden’s focus as JRJ Chair is to address anti-Black racism, medical education, and health inequities and disparities. Her research explores the importance of collecting disaggregated race-based data and the importance of community informed governance models to manage that data. This would mean that before disaggregated race-based data of Black and African Nova Scotian communities is collected, these communities must first be consulted and involved in the development of data collection protocols, oversight of the data, and decisions with how the data will be used.

Foundation: “Black Studies is the venue in which I do my work. Although Black Studies is often only associated with the humanities and social sciences, this is just not the case. There is vibrant and important research and interventions within the medical sciences, medical education and health studies,” says Dr. Dryden. “I am particularly interested in how the intersecting realities that impact the lives of Black queer and trans people is accounted for. Most recently, I focused on the experiences within the Canadian blood donation system of Black men who have sex with men.”

“I’m committed to social justice and anti-racism in all aspects of our lives, including [formal and informal] education. Claims of cultural and racial neutrality and colour-blindness hamper our ability to fully identify the barriers Black people encounter. This is why I believe sharing information and knowledge is vital.”

Inspiration: “I am inspired by the activism and scholarship of Black queer and trans scholars who have been involved with some of the larger civil rights and activist movements (March on Washington, Black Panthers, BLM) and those whose work is not as well known.”

Why it matters: According to Dr. Dryden, her work has helped remove some of the barriers that Black gay and bisexual men have faced when donating blood, though there is much more work to be done. “It is my hope that by adding my voice to the discussion on systemic racism embedded in the policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, it will help to effectively address and resolve health inequities and disparities.”