Exposing the Need for Change
Featured in this picture are some of the organizers of the Exposed: Healthcare 2020 Conference
By: Diya Jhuti and Shraddha Mishra, BHSc (Honours), Class of 2022
It was a rainy winter evening in 2019. Diya trudged from Matthews to Bates Residence, climbing up its stairs until she reached Suite 505. She and Shraddha sat around the dining table, under the flickering white light of the living room, for hours. They were both brimming with thoughts and anxieties, accumulated over years of lived experience, class discussions, and social justice work. What began as a vent session evolved into the seed of an idea – the Exposed: Healthcare Conference.
After grant applications and interviews with the BHSS Internal Committee and TakingITGlobal, the possibility felt more real. In the weeks that followed, Diya and Shraddha put out a call for team members, ultimately creating a committee – no, a family – of twelve incredible people. Together, between October 2019 and March 2020, these students booked a venue, shared promotional materials, and invited four brilliant speakers to share their lived experiences navigating Ontario healthcare. Ultimately, the Exposed: Healthcare team hoped to shed light on the dehumanization, access barriers, and nuanced health needs of historically marginalized communities, and together, they did on March 12, 2020.
On that day, undergraduate students from across McMaster University learned about barriers to gender-affirming care, challenges uniquely faced by racialized midwifery students, disparate healthcare access on Indigenous fly-in reserves, and professional hierarchies within medical institutions.
The next day, the world as we knew it had changed: COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. Since then, millions of people have lost access to the community resources they relied upon for support. The virus has disproportionately impacted the most marginalized communities due to racism- and colonialism-linked poverty. Members of 2SLGBTQIA+ community are at an elevated risk of mental health challenges due to the isolation created by worldwide lockdowns. As many social justice organizers have underscored, this virus has turned those deep-seated cracks in our healthcare system into gaping canyons. Those cracks had already existed, caused by the social structures that are the culprits of poorer health outcomes, lower life expectancies, and higher chronic disease rates among class-oppressed, racialized, and queer communities. These patterns of oppression are not new, and yet they have been widely glossed over, especially within healthcare.
With these revelations, however, came the magnified voices of BLM protesters, farmers protesting unfair federal policies in Punjab, and students striking in the face of climate change. Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour, alongside queer people, sex workers, and other marginalized communities, have been resilient over centuries of oppression, lifting each other up through self-care, community care, and unwavering advocacy.
Amidst a collective eye-opening, Exposed: Healthcare seems to hold a different kind of weight. Perhaps this is why nearly twice as many people attended the 2021 virtual conference compared to the 2020 conference, with many more engaging with the team’s social media advocacy. The conversations were welcoming yet revelational, centering around medical apartheid, weight-based discrimination, trans healthcare, and racism in wellness spaces. Moving forward, the team hopes to expand their initiative to reach even more people and empower even more voices. They want to contribute to the hope brought on by centuries of grassroots organizing.
“We would really like to thank Adele, Piraveenaa, Parm, Jude, Emily, Bianca, Victoria, Zahra, Steffi, and Leela for their deep love and courage. Our meetings are filled with so much joy, learning, and laughter, and it’s all thanks to them.” – Diya and Shraddha, Co-Founders
To learn more, check out Exposed: Healthcare on Instagram (@ehc_mcmaster). Stay tuned for announcements regarding recruitment!