When three Black students approached Dr. Miriam Rossi and retired University of Toronto administrative co-ordinator, Diana Alli, just over two decades ago concerning the lack of Black and Aboriginal students in the university’s medical class, there was instant action.
The Association for the Advancement of Blacks in Health Sciences emerged and they held outreach sessions in high schools in the Greater Toronto Area that led to the establishment of a summer mentorship program designed to provide a focus for students with both an interest and aptitude for the sciences, particularly for those who otherwise would not have the mentorship opportunities available.
A mentor and teacher for most of her professional career, Dr. Rossi was the inaugural recipient of the Guiding Star Award.
SOSAction, a youth development and mentorship action network that enriches formal education by delivering a holistic mentoring experience to young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years and the Black Business & Professional Association made the presentation at the launching of their collaborative electronic career and mentoring program – e-CAMP.
“Dr. Rossi is an amazing lady who has done much to uplift young people in this community,” said SOSAction board of directors chair, Dr. Leroy Clarke. “Her body of work speaks for itself.”
Premier Kathleen Wynne sent congratulatory greetings to Rossi.
“Your dedication to children and youths, hard work in education and research and commitment to your community are an inspiration to the Black community and people of all heritage,” said Wynne.
After securing a Master’s in nutrition and biochemistry from the University of Iowa in 1961, Rossi worked as an instructor at a Boston hospital and then as a teacher and public health nutritionist in New York City. When her husband, an engineering executive, was transferred to Italy in 1973, she had to earn an Italian medical degree.
After practicing for a year in Milan, her husband accepted a position in Toronto and Rossi earned staff positions at the Hospital for Sick Children (HSC) and at U of T in 1981.
A Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, she has worked for more than three decades in the HSC’s division of adolescent medicine. She was also an associate dean of student affairs and admissions for 13 years and a U of T registrar.
Rossi served on the Ontario Premier Council for Health Strategy for seven years and is actively involved in medical education for young people and in community health education and research.