Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital has set up the first Chair of Homelessness, Housing and Health. Photo by Michael Swan

St. Mike’s launches homelessness chair

  • February 7, 2013

TORONTO - Dr. Stephen Hwang has been appointed the first endowed Chair of Homelessness, Housing and Health at St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto.

“The chair provides an opportunity for me as the chair holder to develop innovative new programs and approaches to helping people who are homeless or vulnerably housed,” said Hwang, who has worked as a physician caring for the homeless for the past 20 years.

Effective Jan. 1, Hwang wants to focus on improving health care delivery for chronic conditions such as diabetes, chronic pain and mental illness during his five-year term.

“I also want to address the issue of high frequency utilization of health care services and trying to meet people’s needs in a way that reduces the necessity for frequent ER visits or hospitalization,” he said.

An endowed chair means there have been funds raised that are held in a trust fund, said Hwang. An endowed chair at the University of Toronto requires $3 million.

“The endowment simply means that the donations that are given in support of the chair are not drawn upon every year; they are protected and what’s spent each year is the interest or dividends.”

A graduate of both Johns Hopkins University and Harvard University in the United States, Hwang said he’s honoured by the appointment.

“It’s an incredible privilege and opportunity and I just want to use it to benefit people who are among the most disadvantaged in our society.”

As a Christian, he said everything he does is motivated by his faith in God and his walk with Him.

“Certainly, my choice to work with the homeless is essentially because I’ve heard the call in Scripture for us to care for the poor and to work for justice.”

In addition to spearheading research in the Inner City Health Program at St. Michael’s Hospital — Canada’s only hospital-based research organization focused on the health consequences of social inequality — Hwang also conducts a half-day a week clinic at Seaton House men’s shelter and is an associate professor at the University of Toronto, among other pursuits.

(Santilli is a freelance writer in Toronto.)


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