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'Emotionally involved': International student Dr. Salma Siddiqui reflects on deep bond with mentor Dr. Cindy Sinclair 

February 25, 2021

By Perry King

Alum and mentor Dr. Cindy Sinclair (left) is a former staff member at the University of Toronto, former President of the OISE Alumni Association, and President of Sinclair Consulting Services. Dr. Salma Siddiqui (right) is an international medical graduate from India who is pursuing her MEd degree in the department of leadership, higher and adult education at OISE.


The OISE Mentorship Program is one of the Institute’s more popular and fast-growing programs. With nearly 600 student and alumni participants this year, the mentorship program is devoted to creating meaningful connections between alumni mentors and student mentees – across 25+ different areas in education. With an annual launch event for participants to meet for the first time, followed by a series of mentorship “how-to” workshops, seminars and resource packages, participants are encouraged to meet, chat, collaborate or job shadow often and by any means they’re comfortable – whether it’s in person or online.

OISE News wanted to explore the strengths of the program and how it has fostered relationships between many in the community. This story is the third in a series, where we meet mentors and mentees and the ties that bind them. 

Learn more about the OISE Mentorship Program

Read Part 1, a conversation with Cam Kilgour, Shanelle Henry and Vivian Hoang

Read Part 2, a conversation with Wayne Li and Dr. Barbara Soren

Read part 4, a conversation with Christina Caleca and Kristina Leis

Dr. Salma Siddiqui is an international medical graduate who practiced family medicine for more than a decade in her native India. When she arrived in Canada, she felt a little lost. It’s a professional profile that Dr. Cindy Sinclair knows all too well.

Well before they were matched in the OISE Mentorship Program, Dr. Sinclair, who studied the trajectories of international medical graduates (IMG) as part of her OISE doctoral studies, met Dr. Siddiqui at an ACCES Employment Alternative Career Path course she co-designed with Mihai Csaki, Pauline Gulasingam and Dr. Rashida Haq, for newcomer healthcare professionals.

“I was in a dilemma – being an international medical graduate – where exactly should I go? It is difficult for foreign doctors to become licensed to practice medicine in Canada,” said Dr. Siddiqui. “I had an interest in research but did not know what else I could do. I knew there were a couple of other courses at other colleges and universities, but those were just certification courses, which, you know, wouldn't make me establish myself in a better way.”

“One of my goals has always been what can I do to help IMGs utilize their professional skills in Canada as re-certification is not easy,” added Dr. Sinclair, who once worked at U of T Temerty Faculty of Medicine, in the department of Family Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology – and met hundreds of IMGs.

Dr. Sinclair is a graduate of OISE, a former staff member, former President of the OISE Alumni Association and mentor, and President of Sinclair Consulting Services.

After spending some time with Dr. Sinclair and learning about OISE programs, Dr. Siddiqui became interested in higher education. Dr. Sinclair found Dr. Siddiqui to be quite inquisitive, and keen to know more.

“I directed her to different programs to explore in detail, told her what might be more fitting to prepare her for a good job in Canada, gave her articles to read, and told her about my own research on immigrant doctors,” said Dr. Sinclair. 

They discussed everything from academic interest, family, finances and career potential. When Dr. Sinclair told her about the need to verify her medical credentials or accessing financial aid, Dr. Siddiqui quickly inquired more. “She asked many questions. I knew then that she was serious and she was going to go all out to make sure this pathway would work for her. She applied to OISE and received admission to the leadership, higher and adult education MEd degree program (Education in Professions),” said Dr. Sinclair.

And, mind you, Dr. Siddiqui has accomplished all of this after just arriving in Canada with her family in 2020. After being (luckily) matched in the OISE Mentorship Program with Dr. Sinclair as her mentor, she was delighted.

“After I got in touch with Cindy, I wouldn't say that I feel left out,” said Dr. Siddiqui, who now studies under the tutelage of her advisor, OISE professor Ruth Childs.

“I am strongly connected with Dr. Sinclair. I mean, it's not just academically – it's also the emotional quotient involved. I connected with her strongly. I no longer feel disconnected and unsure of my future in this new country,” Dr. Siddiqui added, shedding happy tears of joy.

Dr. Sinclair has been a mentor in this program several times. She is constantly giving back to this program because supporting other international graduates, like she was at one point, is important.

“I always wanted to make people happy,” said Dr. Sinclair, who immigrated from Guyana many years ago. She would always help others from a younger age and continued those habits when she moved to Toronto. “And I feel sad when I see people and students who are struggling. I want to help. Throughout my career at the U of T, I would always go the extra mile to help students.”

It translates strongly, especially with Dr. Siddiqui. She sees Dr. Sinclair as someone who takes time to listen, understand and brainstorm together.  She gives very detailed feedback – such as ideas to navigate through. She is enthusiastic and caring. So yes, I think that's what makes her a good mentor,” says Dr. Siddiqui, who now wants to pursue doctoral studies at OISE in higher education. She wants to better understand if women are supported well, and look at matters of mental health and career trajectories once they immigrate to Canada.

She is keenly interested in pursuing research on the impact of women who are international medical graduates in Canada. Being an immigrant woman myself, “I know that there’s some extra responsibilities; there's some extra things that you know, we need to take care of along with the career,” she says.

“The OISE Mentorship Program guided us in developing the short-term and long-term goals and the guidance I receive from Dr. Sinclair is commendable,” says Dr. Siddiqui. “I recommend the mentorship program to all OISE students and alumni. We learn together and we build together!”


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