“Witnessing the tireless work Crossroads staff are doing every day to help vulnerable newcomers has inspired me deeply.”
For five years, Sabina Vohra-Miller got by on just three hours of sleep.
As a newcomer to Canada and an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, Vohra-Miller – who was raised by Indian parents in a low-income neighbourhood in Dubai – balanced three jobs and a full course load in pursuit of her dream: to build a career in the sciences.
“In that period, I experienced homelessness and food insecurity,” she says. “I couldn’t afford the cost of transportation, so I would walk an hour to and from campus every single day.”
Despite her struggles, what kept her going financially, and what kept her dreams firmly in sight, were the paid research opportunities made available to her.
“It was only because of those positions that I was able to graduate with my master’s degree and launch a career in biotech as a scientific advisor,” she says.
That’s why, when she first learned about Women’s College Hospital Foundation’s Emily Stowe Society – a community of donors breaking down barriers to careers in the health sciences for marginalized women – she knew she needed to join the movement.
In 2020, just months after Vohra-Miller and her husband, Craig, established the Vohra Miller Foundation, the couple made a gift of $75,000 to the Society. Their contribution is helping to fund paid research positions and other career-track opportunities in the health sciences for women from racialized and equity-seeking communities.
“The Emily Stowe Society supports women just like me,” says Vohra-Miller, who is now a celebrated science communicator focused on combatting misinformation about vaccines and other public health recommendations. “I could immediately see my own experiences reflected in the mission of the Society, which is helping to make sure that marginalized young women won’t have to choose between paying their tuition and pursuing their goals.”
The impact of the Foundation’s investment will be profound. Just 28 per cent of Canada’s scientists are women, and racialized women are barely represented in the science community Vohra-Miller is determined to be part of the systemic change that is required to increase representation.
“For me, having those research opportunities made me who I am today,” she says. “It just shows that potential is everywhere, and we need to provide the resources and break down systemic barriers that racialized women face in order to realize and amplify their potential.”
In addition to the Emily Stowe Society, the Vohra Miller Foundation also made a $75,000 donation to the Crossroads Clinic at Women’s College Hospital, the first and only hospital-based refugee health clinic in Toronto.
“Refugees often arrive in Canada with significant health challenges yet face incredible barriers to healthcare, which I experienced myself as a new immigrant with limited resources,” says Vohra-Miller. “Witnessing the tireless work Crossroads staff are doing every day to help vulnerable newcomers has inspired me deeply.”
Vohra-Miller, who is one of the newest members of Women’s College Hospital Foundation’s 100Women group – a community of women philanthropists dedicated to building a healthier, more equitable healthcare system for everyone – believes the hospital is playing a central role in creating sustainable change for the health of Canada’s most vulnerable populations.
“When Craig and I launched the Vohra Miller Foundation, we wanted to support initiatives that have a very meaningful, very intentional way of addressing systemic issues in society,” she says. “Women’s College Hospital is doing exactly that.”