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Episode #7: Making Meaning in Medicine

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Dr. Allison Crawford

Allison Crawford, MD, Ph.D., joins us to discuss how she uses the arts to help make meaning in medicine, the proliferation of telemedicine and virtual care, the importance of recognizing what brings you joy, and so much more!


Dr. Crawford is a psychiatrist and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, where she is Associate Chief of Virtual Mental Health and Outreach at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). She is co-Chair of ECHO Ontario; and co-Chair of ECHO Ontario Mental Health, and is also the Chief Medical Officer of the Canada Suicide Prevention Service. Allison’s focus is on increasing access to quality mental health care, including through the integration of virtual care.   


Dr. Crawford has worked as a psychiatrist in Nunavut for over 15 years, and coordinates psychiatric services for the Government of Nunavut. She works with the Inuit Circumpolar Council and the Arctic Council on circumpolar wellness and suicide prevention initiatives. Allison also has a PhD in English literature, through HeART Lab she advances the use of art, research, and technology to engage community, patients, and providers to co-create compassionate health care.  



  • Philosophy and the creation of “medpoesis”

  • The many projects of the Health Equity Art Research and Technology (HeART) lab

  • Dr. Crawford’s experience working in Nunavut, including digital storytelling workshops and supporting youth with the technology to tell their own stories

  • Training and advocacy workshops for youth aging out of the foster care system in Canada using arts based methods

  • The potential for arts-based work to be voyeuristic, and the importance of training youth to take ownership of the work and their stories 

  • Allison’s “accidental” trajectory into academia and becoming engaged with education

  • What telehealth looked like before the COVID-19 pandemic, and what it was like helping CAMH scale up virtual care

  • Making connection over Zoom and making an effort be attuned to and not to lose the connection with the body 

  • Why Dr. Crawford decided to pursue a Masters and PhD in English during her medical residency

  • The Importance of play and recognizing what brings you joy

  • Allison’s thoughts about the future of telemedicine/virtual care



  • Follow Dr. Crawford on Twitter!

  • The HeART lab

  • “Poesis” from plato's symposium, making things out of nothing

  • RA refers to Research Assistant or Analyst

  • AGO refers to the Art Gallery of Ontario

  • Charlotte Salomon’s artwork

  • CIHR- Canadian Institutes of Health Research 


Get the transcript of this episode HERE