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Now you’re speaking my language: How one doctor who grew up in Brampton’s L6P is helping get the South Asian community vaccinated

June 4, 2021

As an emergency physician, Raj Grewal knows how difficult it can be to seek medical help when language is a barrier. He sees it all the time with his South Asian patients at Hamilton Health Sciences – the relief on their faces when he switches from English to Punjabi and they can finally speak to someone in a language they understand.

In Brampton’s L6P neighbourhood, where Dr. Grewal grew up, that language barrier was having dire consequences during the pandemic. Some 60 per cent of L6P residents are South Asian, and with a COVID-19 positivity rate of 20 per cent – more than three times the provincial average – he knew it was crucial to get out the message about testing and other public-health measures in languages community members could understand.

In November, he teamed up with his respirologist wife, Anju Anand, and his mom, Paramjit Kaur Grewal – who still lives in L6P – to create a short video in Punjabi instructing residents how to get tested. Then they fired it off on WhatsApp, the messaging platform of choice among the South Asian community. The video was shared hundreds of times. Dr. Grewal himself even had it sent back to him by loved ones.

ince then, the 46-year-old physician has become a key figure fighting the pandemic in ravaged L6P. In the wake of the video’s success, he co-founded the South Asian COVID Task Force, whose mission is to create public-health messages targeted specifically at immigrant communities, help tackle the spread of misinformation and advocate for greater support. And in January, he became medical director of the newly created Embassy Grand Testing Centre, a privately run testing site funded by Ontario Health and located in the heart of L6P, where many people work in essential jobs and live in multigenerational homes, putting them at greatest risk of contracting the virus.

And he has done it all while still working as an emergency doctor and assistant professor at McMaster University.

“I am a doer,” Dr. Grewal says. “I knew I had to step in and help.”

Source: Globe and Mail