Team & Partners

Health, Arts, & Humanities

Team & Partners

Theme Lead: Allan Peterkin

Allan Peterkin completed a degree in English and French literature before completing medical school at the University of Manitoba.

He went on to complete residencies in psychiatry and family medicine at McGill, all the while working on his own creative writing projects. As a resident, he published “Staying Human During Residency Training-How To Survive and Thrive After Medical School” (now in its 7th North American edition and 1st UK edition). Dr Peterkin is a full Professor of psychiatry and family medicine at the University of Toronto, where he founded the Program in Health, Arts and Humanities. He has served as the inaugural Humanities Faculty Lead for Undergraduate Medical Education , Post Graduate Medical Education and Continuing Professional Development.

He is a Distinguished Fellow of the Canadian Psychiatric Association and Senior Fellow at Massey College. He was the winner of the US-based  Health Humanities Consortium Visionary Award in 2023.

Dr Peterkin was a co-founder of Creating Space-Canada’s annual medical humanities meeting, now in its 12th year, and was instrumental in founding the Canadian Association for Health Humanities. He has always been interested in the interface between medicine and storytelling and co-led a therapeutic writing group for men and women living with HIV for 20 years. A collection of these patients’ narratives was published as “Still Here-a Post-Cocktail Aids Anthology” (Life Rattle Press). This work led to further training in narrative-based medicine in the US and UK and he was a pioneer in bringing narrative practice approaches in healthcare to Canada.

Dr Peterkin has written/edited 15 books on subjects as varied as cultural history, human sexuality, physician health and narrative-based medicine.

His health humanities titles include : “Portfolio to Go-1000 Prompts and Provocations for Clinical Learners”“Health Humanities in Postgraduate Medical Education” with Dr Anna Skorzewska, and “Keeping Reflection Fresh-a Practical Guide for Clinical Educators”, with Pamela Brett-Maclean PHD.

He is also an author of 5 picture books for children. Recent titles include “The Flyaway Blanket” , "National Geographic Kids' Dream Journal"  and “Peacock and Sketch”.

Dr Peterkin was a co-founder of the award-winning Canadian literary journal Ars Medica and has been a humanities editorial consultant to CMAJ and Medical Humanities(BMJ).

His poetry, journalistic pieces and creative non-fiction have appeared in journals and magazines in the US, Canada and the UK.

He is delighted to be the Founder and current Program Director of the CPD Program in Narrative-based Medicine, which has trained colleagues from all over the world. This program continues to create new opportunities for finding renewal and community by celebrating the stories and narrative practices shared by students, colleagues, patients and educators from multiple clinical and arts-based disciplines.

Ronna Bloom: Poet-In-Residence

Ronna Bloom: Poet-In-Residence

Ronna Bloom is a teacher, writing coach and the author of six books of poetry. Her most recent book, The More, was published by Pedlar Press in 2017 and longlisted for the 2018 City of Toronto Book Award. Her poems have been recorded by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, translated into Spanish, Bangla, and Chinese and have been used in the work of architects, filmmakers, doctors, academics, and spiritual leaders.

Ronna has been the Poet in Community to the University of Toronto since 2008 and is currently also the Poet in Residence in the Health, Arts and Humanities Program at U of T. In the programmes, she offers students and health care professionals opportunities to articulate their experiences through poetry and reflective writing.  Ronna brings 25 years of experience as a psychotherapist to her work as a teacher and facilitator. Her Spontaneous Poetry Booths and RX for Poetry have appeared in hospital waiting rooms, bookstores, fundraisers and arts events in Canada and abroad.

Sarah Kim

Sarah Kim: Dancer-In-Residence

Sarah Kim is an Assistant Professor and Family Physician with specialized practices in Sport & Exercise Medicine and Emotion-Focused Mindful Psychotherapy and a clinical lecturer in Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto. Complementary to her medical practice, she is a mindfulness meditation and movement educator and a certified yoga instructor. Sarah’s artistic practice in Dance and Contemporary Circus Arts integrates various martial art influences, urban dance, contemporary dance and circus as part of her movement research. Her investigations challenge/examine historical ideas around the body, exploring embedded hierarchies and the intersection of the body within industrialized systems. She is interested in how models of the body influence the lived experience: Perceptions, relationships and body politics. As an Assistant Professor, her process involves the deconstruction and reconstruction of anatomies, building bridges between silos of knowledge, with consideration of what it means to decolonize the body, to address systemic -isms and offer sustainable alternatives to shame-based learning. Her method encourages a non-intrusive approach, inviting dialogue and positive affirmation of embodied experiences. Sarah’s most recent short dance film collaboration, The Choreography of Care (2022), offers a rich perspective into the experience of healthcare workers during the pandemic, while serving as a tribute to their sacrifice and dedication. Sarah considers herself a lifelong student of the human condition and believes strongly in movement and creative expression as core foundations of well-being.

Suvendrini Lena

Suvendrini Lena: Playwright-in-Residence

Suvendrini Lena is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at U of T, staff neurologist at CAMH and WCH and a playwright. Her play The Enchanted Loom was produced by Cahoots Theatre and Factory Theatre 2016 season. The Enchanted Loom, a play about epilepsy, memory and a Sri Lankan family living in Toronto, has been translated into Tamil by Dushy Gnanapragasam. The play and translation will be published by Playwright’s Press, Toronto, in 2020. Her second theatrical work, an interactive installation inspired by the psychiatric writing of Frantz Fanon,  Here Are the Fragmented was co-created with Leah Cherniak and Trevor Schwellnus and premiered for a sold out run at The Theatre Centre in 2019. Rubble, a new play based on the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish, is slated for production at Theatre Passe Muraille in partnership with Pandemic and Aluna in 2021.

Suvendrini has been a resident artist at Cahoots Theatre 2015-2017, and at The Theatre Centre 2015-2019.

As a teacher, Suvendrini uses theatrical methods to open space for reflection and creativity within medical practice. Inspired by Fanon, she is developing a new interest in methods of decolonizing medicine.

As a clinician she is particularly interested in conditions that alter the fabric of consciousness such as migraine, epilepsy, psychosis, pain and dementia.

Dawn Lim

Dawn Lim: Photographer-In-Residence

Dawn Lim is an emergency doctor at the University Health Network and an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.  Her research is about how storytelling can be used as a tool for building self compassion in medical practice with a particular focus on changing the shame-based culture of medicine.

Dawn is particularly interested in using storytelling to advocate and supporting humanitarian work locally and abroad. Her work has been supported by a National Geographic Covid grant and can be found in various national media outlets.

Damian Tarnopolsky

Damian Tarnopolsky: Writer-In-Residence

Damian Tarnopolsky is the author of two books: the novel Goya’s Dog, a finalist for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the First Novel Award, and the short fiction collection Lanzmann and Other Stories, which was nominated for the ReLit Award. His short stories have been nominated for the Journey Prize and the CBC Literary Award, and his play The Defence won the 2019 Voaden Prize.

For the Health, Arts and Humanities Program, Damian teaches courses in Narrative Medicine at the Centre for Faculty Development at St. Michael’s Hospital, and leads A Rooster for Asclepius: The Toronto Health Humanities Writing Group. He previously ran writing and reflection workshops for medical students and residents as the Barbara Moon Fellow at Massey College.

Damian earned his Ph.D. in English Literature at the University of Toronto, and has taught at the School of Continuing Studies, where he was nominated for an Excellence in Teaching award, and Humber College. A frequent contributor of essays and reviews to Canadian publications, he also owns and operates Slingsby and Dixon, an editorial services company in Toronto.

He is a Course Director for the Narrative-based Medicine Lab.

Shelley Wall

Shelley Wall: Illustrator-In-Residence

Shelley Wall is an associate professor in the Biomedical Communications graduate program at the University of Toronto. As an educator and certified medical illustrator, she believes in visual art as a powerful means of reflection and communication in healthcare. Her primary area of research and creation is Graphic Medicine — that is, comics as a medium for narratives of health and illness.

In addition to creating her own comics and collaborating with others to tell their stories visually, she teaches a graduate course on Graphic Medicine within the Institute of Medical Science, and offers seminars in graphic medicine and illustration as a means of reflection for medical students, interprofessional education classes, and medical practitioners.


Bill Gayner

Bill Gayner, BSW, MSW, RSW, is a Registered Social Worker and Psychotherapist with the Centre for Psychology and Emotional Health and a Mindfulness and Wellness Clinical Educator, Health Arts and Humanities Program, University of Toronto.

Bill developed Emotion-Focused Mindfulness Therapy (EFMT), adapting mindfulness-based interventions to target internal conflicts and unfinished business, navigate issues in daily life, and cultivate growth and flourishing. He researches and provides professional training and mentoring in EFMT. He presents his work on mindfulness at national and international conferences and trainings.

Bill is a pioneer in providing professional mindfulness training in Toronto. He has trained and mentored mental health professionals, psychiatry residents and social work students in mindfulness-based approaches for fifteen years and leads an annual residential EFMT retreat for mental health professionals at the Ecology Retreat Centre, north of Toronto. Bill led a randomized-controlled trial of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for gay men living with HIV that was the first to indicate psychological improvements for mindfulness in this population. This study inspired him to explore integrating self-compassion more deeply into mindfulness-based interventions to better address harsh self-criticism, shame and inter-personal injuries, leading him to develop EFMT.

Karen Gold

Karen Gold

Karen Gold, PhD, MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and educator with a longstanding interest in narrative and arts-based pedagogies. As the IPE Lead at Women’s College Hospital, she has taught communication skills, trauma-informed practice and team-based collaboration. Karen has worked in a variety of clinical settings and has supervised students in social work, counseling psychology, and creative arts therapy. Her doctoral research, completed in 2013, focused on narrative inquiry and clinician writing. She has done advanced narrative medicine training at Columbia University and is a certified Amherst writing facilitator. Her work has appeared in peer-reviewed journals and anthologies, and she is currently a reviewer for the journal Reflections: Narratives of Professional Helping. Her musings can be found at


Hartley Jafine

Hartley Jafine is an instructor in the Bachelor of Health Sciences (Honours) program and Arts & Science program at McMaster University, where he facilitates theatre and arts-based courses. He is also a lecturer (part-time) with the Department of Family Medicine. His areas of teaching and research are in health humanities, applied theatre, and arts-based research practices. For over a decade he has been integrating drama and serious play within health professions education. He is interested in questions of how the arts can enhance education and the performance of healthcare roles, build community, and raise critical consciousness.

He has been honoured to receive four McMaster Students Union Teaching Awards for his work in the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Arts & Science Program. When not on the McMaster campus, Hartley works as a communication coach with the University of Toronto’s Postgraduate Medical Education program and an arts educator at Baycrest Health Sciences. He is an enormous fan of the TV show Survivor and is a clown nose enthusiast.

LJ Nelles

LJ Nelles

LJ Nelles, RP, MFA, PhD (candidate) brings years of experience as a theatre professional to her work with health care professionals. Her work as an actor, director and voice teacher led her to investigate the ways in which performance training can assist non-performers including clinical practitioners and learners to develop self-awareness and an embodied ability for “being with” both self and others.  LJ is a registered psychotherapist in private practice and an educator in geriatric psychiatry at The Reitman Centre Sinai Health System.  She works with individuals, couples and groups.

Eva-Marie Stern

Eva-Marie Stern

Eva-Marie Stern, RP, MA, Adjunct Professor U of T Dept of Psychiatry, is a psychotherapist, art therapist, and medical educator. She co-founded the Women Recovering from Abuse Program (WRAP) at Women’s College Hospital, where she spent 20 years learning and teaching at the intersections between art, therapy and trauma. She is a recipient of the Award of Excellence in Supervision from the Department of Psychiatry; co-authored “The Visible Curriculum” (in Health Humanities in Postgraduate Medical Education, Oxford U Press); offers seminars and workshops that explore witnessing as a transformative act in therapy and everywhere else; and maintains a private practice for therapy and consultation.