Cynthia Whitehead is an education scientist, educator, and family physician. Her research examines the effects of power relations on various structures, systems, processes, and practices in health professions education, paying attention to who and what is advantaged or disadvantaged as a result. She aims to use her research findings to promote health and education practices that are compassionate, equitable, and effective. Working at the intersection of health and higher education, she sees exciting opportunities to harness the transformative potential of education in service of a healthier world.
Cynthia’s program of research is anchored in critical historical analyses of health professions education. Knowing our history is vital for understanding our current contexts, avoiding past mistakes, preserving what works well, and appropriately adapting that which needs change. Aware of the need to deliberately collect multiple perspectives and voices in the history of health professions education, Cynthia is engaged in efforts to preserve relevant archival materials. She is also committed to helping to grow the community of scholars interested in studying the history of the field.
Theoretically, Cynthia engages with the work of Michel Foucault, as well as post-colonialism, anticolonialism, and decoloniality. Some of her specific content areas of interest are globalized medical education, primary care education, accreditation, outcomes-based education, and education for collaboration.
Underpinning Cynthia’s historical research is the knowledge that the creation of Euro-American models of higher education, health professions education, and healthcare institutions globally were intrinsically intertwined with European colonization of Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Australia. She understands that colonization has shaped and continues to perpetuate inequities in health professions education and research practices locally, nationally, and globally.
Cynthia is a Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine; Director and Scientist at the Wilson Centre, Temerty Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto and University Health Network; and an academic family doctor based clinically at Women’s College Hospital. She holds the BMO Financial Group Chair in Health Professions Education Research at University Health Network.
The Wilson Centre generates high quality and innovative interdisciplinary education science to propel transformations in health professions education.