About Academics at WCH

About The Research and Innovation Institute

A multidisciplinary research institute, we are one of only a few hospital-based research institutes worldwide to focus on health equity. Our scientists, all of whom have academic appointments at the University of Toronto, conduct research that improves the health of women, helps people prevent and manage complex chronic conditions, and delivers innovative health system solutions.

Our vision is to lead innovative, high impact health research that changes practice, changes policy, and changes lives.

Our scientists are expanding and exporting knowledge about health conditions that have unique implications for women and others throughout their lives – like arthritis, depression, diabetes and heart disease. They are investigating the complexities of these conditions – because rarely does one person experience only one disease or take only one medication. They are exploring the social, political and economic forces that influence health and access to healthcare. They are working to address pervasive health system issues and develop innovative virtual solutions to enhance the care experience.

The WCH Research and Innovation Institute endorses the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s Dimensions Charter, aiming to increase research excellence, innovation and creativity across all scientific disciplines, through greater equity, diversity and inclusion.

Reporting Relationships

Dr Rulan Parekh is the Vice President, Academics at Women’s College Hospital.
Katharine Schwartz, Director, Research Operations, oversees research services.

Women’s College Hospital has always been a health innovator. From the development of the first Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer in the late 1940s to the opening of the first Sexual Assault Care Centre in Ontario in 1984, Women’s College Hospital has contributed to our knowledge of women’s health and healthcare.

In 1995, Women’s College Hospital demonstrated its commitment to women’s health research by partnering with the University of Toronto to form the Centre for Research in Women’s Health (CRWH). CRWH recruited additional research faculty to the hospital and helped build many of the research programs that are part of Women’s College Research Institute today. It also established funding for a number of academic chairs, drawing a core of pre-eminent leaders to our research programs.

The CRWH led Women’s College Hospital to become a more active part of the University of Toronto research community. The CRWH became a catalyst for women’s health research at the university, helping to bring researchers and students from different departments together to share their insights and to find new research partners.

On April 1, 2006, Women’s College Hospital once again became an independently governed hospital after nine years as part of Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre. This new hospital offers new possibilities to support the development of research capacity at Women’s College Hospital through a dedicated research institute.

Women’s College Research Institute formally launched in October 2006 bringing academic and clinical researchers together to conduct research to focused on health equity. Women’s College Research Institute conducts research that improves the health of women, helps people prevent and manage complex chronic conditions, and delivers innovative health system solutions.

In 2013, the Women’s College Hospital Institute for Health System Solutions and Virtual Care (WIHV) launched as a living laboratory for health system solutions in Ontario and beyond.

Whether it’s evaluating an app that allows patients with chronic kidney disease to order supplies and manage dialysis at home or using big data to improve medication safety for vulnerable communities, WIHV is responding to today’s most pressing health issues through research insights and solutions.

In 2021, WCH introduced a bold new strategy creating a new integrated Academics Department comprised of research, innovation and education. Under this newly formed portfolio teams within Academics are working to implement a learning health system across the organization.

About The Learning Institute

Women’s College Hospital (WCH) is an internationally recognized academic health sciences centre, fully affiliated with the University of Toronto. It offers unparalleled mentorship, teaching, leadership and learning in an ambulatory environment with a focus on generating sustainable health system solutions.

WCH’s team of professionals and learners are revolutionizing patient care and the patient experience by transforming inpatient to outpatient care models and enabling the most effective integration of virtual care.

WCH’s Learning Institute is supporting humanistic education and care, engaging patients and communities in working to improve processes and practices. The team strives to create life-long learners, while also aiding the path of our future healthcare professionals.

Our Team

Amy Gleiser is the Director of the Learning Institute and recently joined Women’s College Hospital after more than a decade working as an administrator and faculty in higher education. She holds a Doctor of Education degree in Leadership and Innovation and a Master’s degree in Adult Education. Amy is leading the development of the short and long-term strategy for the Learning Institute and implementing new initiatives for learners at WCH. She is also responsible for leading the Learning Institute team and supporting the student/learner placement program across the hospital.

Dr. Lenkov is the Director for Undergraduate Medical Education for Peters-Boyd Academy in the Faculty of Medicine at Women’s College Hospital. Dr. Lenkov has been a physician with Women’s College Hospital for 20 years and has been a Medical Educator for 18 years. Dr. Lenkov completed her Bachelor of Science Degree and her MDCM from McGill University.

Sharon Tan headshotSharon is the Manager of Learner and Student Services. Sharon holds a Master of Public Health in Indigenous Health with a collaborative specialization in Aging and the Life Course. She has experience building relationships with over 20 government, non-profit, and industry partners to support student practicum experience. Sharon manages Learner and Student Services at WCH including the student experience, supervisor/preceptor development. She will also be responsible for policies and procedures related to students/learners, identifying opportunities of interest, and providing support for strategic education initiatives and capacity building.

Joyce has recently been appointed to the role of education scientist at WCH. She is a PhD-trained scientist with 30 years of experience in qualitative and mixed-methods education research, program development, and evaluation. She is excited to be helping to build a culture of education scholarship across WCH departments. Joyce is currently developing a consultation system for clinical staff and faculty to assist WCH stakeholders with their education scholarship.

Victoria is the Patient and Community Engagement Lead, starting at Women’s College Hospital in summer 2022. In this newly created position, her responsibilities include enhancing how the hospital works with patients, community groups and others with lived experience to ensure innovative and impactful relationships. Victoria is originally from the UK and completed a Bachelor of Science degree at Durham University and a PhD in cancer research from Newcastle University. She has a range of professional experience in research science, health writing and patient advocacy.

Jennifer AlexanderJennifer Alexander is the Medical Education Coordinator here at Women’s College Hospital, overseeing the Postgraduate and Undergraduate Medical students from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. She has been with Women’s College Hospital since 2004 and has been the Medical Education Coordinator since 2005. Jennifer completed her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and History at Ryerson University as well as a diploma of Medical Administration at Herzing College.

Carly is the Education Coordinator for Nursing, Health Disciplines & Research at Women’s College Hospital. Carly has over six years of experience within healthcare education. Previously, Carly was the Program Administrative Assistant for the Education Office at Trillium Health Partners (TPH). Prior to her time at THP, she was the PreClerkship & OTN Education Coordinator at North York General Hospital (NYGH).

About the Learning Health System Collaboratory

In establishing an LHS Collaboratory, we are expanding our scope of work within the Academics portfolio to create a hub that advances the rapid translation of research findings into knowledge and knowledge into practice – in a continuous improvement and feedback loop – that provides patients and their caregivers the confidence that their care is the best and most-advanced available.

An LHS model at WCH will foster a culture of curiosity and engagement. It will enable everyone across the organization to continuously ask questions about our current processes, delivery, and outcomes, to determine if and where we’re adding value and then to assess how we can work together to effect improvements.

Our Team

Soumia Meiyappan is the Manager of the Learning Health System (LHS) Collaboratory and joined Women’s College Hospital in October 2022. In her role, she leads the strategic planning around the enterprise vision of an LHS. This has entailed building relationships across the institution to get a sense of the overall culture and readiness for an LHS at WCH. These connections have made it clear that WCH is a place of possibility and innovation. Soumia holds over a decade of experience working in the academic health science sector. She pursued a career in healthcare research and strategy to bridge her curiosity for the unknown with her desire to be part of creating a healthier future for others.

It was this love for learning that led to her eventual appearance as a contestant on the quiz show, Jeopardy! in March 2016. Prior to WCH, Soumia was a Program Manager in Clinical Research Services at The Hospital for Sick Children and before that, a Project Management and Research Professional in primary care at the University Health Network. Soumia holds a Master of Science degree in Health Research Methodology from McMaster University and is a certified Project Management Professional.

Victoria Ennis is the Academic Cultural Inclusion Specialist in the Learning Health System (LHS) and joined Women’s College Hospital in May 2024. In her role, she will support the development of a framework for integrating health equity and cultural inclusion of Indigenous and Black participants in academic work in conjunction with community partners. She will also develop educational tools and resources to enable research teams to develop their capacity and understanding of how to include sex, gender, equity, and diversity into their ongoing initiatives. Victoria’s career experience includes education, diversity, equity, and inclusion leadership and consulting, and this role in the LHS bridges her passion for improving systems, especially for marginalized and underserved communities, and educating and training.

Victoria holds a Masters Degree in Education Policy and Analysis from Harvard University, and has many passions including environmental sustainability, improving anti-Black racism, LGBTQ2S+ issues, and believes we all should have access to public services that assist in improving our well-being.

Guiding Principles

Our agenda and actions are shaped by our guiding principles:

Excellence

Academics conducted with scientific rigour

Collaboration

Academics that are conducted with partners across Toronto, Canada, and the world

Equity

Academics that respond to diverse women’s health and broader health equity concerns

Integrity

Academics that meet the highest ethical standard

Innovation

Academics that respond to gaps within healthcare practice and the health system

Communication

Academics that are shared in a timely and meaningful way

Social Responsibility

Academics with a global perspective that values social justice

The newly integrated Academics program at Women’s College Hospital (WCH) brings together education, research, and innovation to become the first hospital in Canada to truly integrate a learning health system.

Recognizing that data is a core component of research, and that good data management and stewardship is a pre-condition to supporting knowledge discovery and innovation, WCH will be prepared to implement the FAIR Data Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship . These guiding principles will improve the Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, and Reuse of research data. 

In response to the Tri-Agencies Research Data Management (RDM) Policy, WCH is committed to research excellence by fostering a robust environment for data management that supports and develops researchers to be well-positioned to contribute and capitalize on data-intensive science and scholarship. 

To learn more, download our research data management strategy document.