Dr. Cindy Wang is considered a newcomer to Ontario; having finished her residency in anesthesiology, she was recruited to go back to Montreal where she was raised. However, the amazing team at Scarborough saw the potential of a future colleague/family and recruited her to come and see what a gem is hiding out at the East end of Toronto. Obliging her mentor Dr. Liz Hartley from Sickkids, Dr. Wang experienced the all-inclusive culture at Scarborough Health Network, and decided to stay here and call SHN her forever home.

An anesthesiologist at SHN for the last seven years, Dr. Wang thinks it’s a place brimming with excellence and potential – and that people don’t give us nearly as much credit as they should.

“We’re a diamond in the rough. When I came here and saw how everyone worked together, I fell in love with the hospital and the people,” says Dr. Wang. “We have exceptional healthcare teams who go above and beyond for their patients, and we have innovative and cutting-edge medicine that gets overlooked by the fact that we’re a community health network.”

As a female physician, Dr. Wang has experienced firsthand what additional challenges women in healthcare face.

Dr. Cindy Wang getting ready for a surgery.

“We’re fortunate to have a lot more female physicians and male nurses in healthcare now,” Dr. Wang says. “It does lead to some challenges for me, however, because if I go to speak with a patient with a male nurse, the patient will oftentimes speak with the male figure. It can be difficult to be taken seriously; However as I get older and the healthcare landscape changes, I have hope that in a previously male-dominated field, we will be taken as seriously as our counterparts.”

Dr. Wang reflects that although she has faced some challenges as a female physician, Scarborough is a place where cultural differences don’t divide us – they strengthen us. Because our community is so beautifully diverse, everyone who comes to SHN for care is treated equitably and with respect. “We never have to go through that growing pain!” Dr. Wang emphasizes.

However, there are still gaps in the way women’s health concerns are handled across the world. This includes conscious and subconscious gender biases, as well as women historically being caretakers for others and not putting their health first. At SHN, closing this gap is top of mind.

“We’re fortunate to have a number of women in leadership positions across SHN, along with a number of our male colleagues who are advocates,” says Dr. Wang. “Our Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology is an African American woman, and our Chief of Staff is an Asian woman. Plus, one of our general surgeons started a women’s colonoscopy day at SHN that is staffed purely by women physicians, nurses, and staff to care for these patients. This is just a small snapshot of how our SHN teams reflect the community we serve.”

The diversity of Scarborough is one of its greatest strengths. And that diversity is demonstrated throughout our SHN hospitals. Unlike other Toronto hospitals, who may rely on external providers to provide a telephone line for translation services, we have an entire globe of languages right at our fingertips. Whether it’s a physician, a porter, a nurse, a custodian, or even another patient, there is always someone available and willing to help translate into our patients’ language when they are at the hospital.

“The sense of community we have at SHN keeps me here. My entire family receives their care in our Scarborough hospitals even though we don’t all live here,” Dr. Wang says. “My mother-in-law lives in Richmond Hill and was diagnosed with colon cancer 10 years ago. However, when she initially felt something was wrong and told her physician about her symptoms, she was told it was nothing. Luckily, she persisted and saw Dr. Jason Wong at SHN, who really listened to her and heard her symptoms. He persisted and performed numerous tests, finally finding and treating the cancer. Everyone can expect that type of care when they come to SHN.”

When it comes to women advocating for their health, Dr. Wang says her mother-in-law is proof that sometimes women have to continue to speak up when they know something is wrong and that women should help advocate for each other. Talk openly about health, and when in doubt, reach out to your physician.

Dr. Wang will be part of SHN Foundation’s Sip, Shop & Celebrate Women event on November 24, where she will be joined by Dr. Elaine Yeung, Chief of Staff at SHN, and Dr. Mojola Omole, a breast surgical oncologist, where they will be talking about advocating for women’s health and answering questions.