#ImmigrationMatters in London, Ontario – Researching, teaching, healing: this doctor does it all

Researching, teaching, healing: this doctor does it all

February 6, 2023


Dr. Michelle Barton-Forbes

If you had a child who needed specialized medical care, you would want Dr. Michelle Barton-Forbes on your team.

“My motto is to always give my best,” she says. “If I’m taking care of a child, that child is going to be treated like they were my own.”

Dr. Barton-Forbes is a force of nature. When she arrived in Canada from Jamaica in 2004, she cared for her 3 young daughters, all between the ages of 5 and 10, until her husband was able to join her. She was essentially a single parent while working full-time at a research fellowship and completing her master’s degree in clinical epidemiology.

Now division chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre, she treats children and oversees their care. Meanwhile, she is also advancing ground-breaking research and mentoring medical residents as an associate professor at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.

“I work hard because I believe that the people I serve deserve my very best. I’m a passionate person with a servant heart.”

Dr. Michelle Barton-Forbes

Early in the pandemic, many medical practitioners assumed COVID-19 didn’t really affect children, but Dr. Barton-Forbes wasn’t convinced. As part of the Paediatric Investigators Collaborative Network on Infections in Canada (PICNIC), she explored how COVID-19 affected children, including what risk factors might cause them to be hospitalized or develop serious complications.

The pandemic also motivated Dr. Barton-Forbes to partner with colleagues to explore how the medical community could better meet the needs of the Black population, which seemed disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

Dr. Craig Campbell is the interim chair/chief of pediatrics at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and the Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre. He recalls how Dr. Barton-Forbes spent many Saturdays during the pandemic—after hectic clinical work weeks with patients—advancing these important areas of research.

“I’m inspired by her integrity and her commitment to her patients, colleagues and the wider community,” he says.

London parent Chris Clarke was grateful for Dr. Barton-Forbes’s dedication when his son fell ill with a serious infection, and was hospitalized for 6 months. “Her passion for her patients is next-level,” he says. “She has a heart like I’ve never seen before. Our victories were her victories. When we cried, she cried.”

As the lead for pediatric infectious diseases for southwestern Ontario, Dr. Barton-Forbes carries a heavy clinical and administrative load. But she’s fuelled by her commitment to sick kids—not only in terms of caring for her own patients, but in conducting research that could ultimately help all children.

“My desire to give those special angels the very best care gives me the energy to work extra hours,” she says. “I am always looking for answers to unsolved problems and seeking the best possible outcomes for my little patients.”

Immigration profile: London, Ontario

Quick facts:

  • Immigrants in the City of London make up 25% of the population.
  • In Canada, immigrants account for 1 out of every 4 workers in the health care sector. Immigrants make up 36% of physicians, 23% of registered nurses and 37% of pharmacists.
  • Immigrants deliver and improve our health and social services. According to the 2016 census, more than 335,000 immigrants work in health-related occupations.

Did you know?

  • Almost 500,000 workers in the health care sector are over the age of 55, most of whom will retire in the next decade or so. There’s an opportunity for immigrants to play an important role in ensuring Canadians have continued access to high-quality care. Read more about what immigration does for our country.

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