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‘Now people can see themselves’: Dalhousie researchers, community members, and alumni create diverse image library

Posted by Stephanie Brown on May 30, 2023 in Citizenship, Innovation, Alumni & Friends, News
Dr. Caitlin McArthur hopes the Diversity Exchange will continue to grow. (Bruce Bottomley photo)
Dr. Caitlin McArthur hopes the Diversity Exchange will continue to grow. (Bruce Bottomley photo)

The Diversity Exchange was created when School of Physiotherapy assistant professor Dr. Caitlin McArthur was looking for images for presentations for her class and noticed there was a big lack of diversity in currently available stock photos.

She says they were mainly white people who looked affluent and in good health, and were often doing ineffective exercises or exercises incorrectly. It became clear she wanted to create an ethnoculturally diverse image library for her and others in the profession so diverse students could be represented.

“I want people to know they can be a physiotherapist no matter what their background is, where they come from, how they dress. We need diversity in our professionals.”

Dr. McArthur put the call out for people to get involved, and one former student of hers heard about it and was really excited about the project.

Ife Abel-Adegbite graduated in 2021 and currently works as a physiotherapist in Bridgewater. He says as a person of colour, he realized a lot of people in his program didn’t look like him.

“When you think of physio you think of a particular look, and many of my classmates were represented. We needed to create that diverse look to the occupation.”

Abel-Adegbite joined the team and helped advise how to approach creating these images and booked models for the photoshoots.

The photoshoot day was busy, with about 2000 photos taken, but both Dr. McArthur and Abel-Adegbite say it was a big success. Their models were people from the community who were paid for their time, some being retired healthcare workers who voiced that they wish they had this representation at the time.

“I was very happy with it – it came out beautifully. The models who helped out had positive reactions, they understood what we were trying to accomplish,” Abel-Adegbite says. “Now people can see themselves in the images and textbooks.”

Abel-Adegbite says the impact of this project may not be immediate, but long term, he hopes it will generate interest and younger people of colour will see it’s possible to join the profession, and see they fit in.

Both hope this is not the end of the project. The website has an open call for suggestions, and Dr. McArthur hopes to be able to create images representing more diverse physical and cognitive abilities and genders. Abel-Adegbite hopes to see more projects like this in the future.


The other co-investigators of this project are:

  • Dr. Adria Quigley - Assistant Professor, School of Physiotherapy
  • Dr. Drew Bourret - Instructor, School of Physiotherapy
  • Dr. Gail Dechman - Assistant Professor, School of Physiotherapy
  • Dr. Marie Earl - Assistant Professor, School of Physiotherapy
  • Crystal Watson - PhD Candidate, PhD in Health
  • Salam Elborno - 2021 Graduate of School of Physiotherapy
  • Timi Idris - PLANS manager

Credit for the Diversity Exchange photo used: Caitlin McArthur, Diversity Exchange, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0, no changes made