First Exposure

Who We Are

First Exposure at the University of Toronto is a digital information hub and research network providing evidence-based information to the public and health care providers on the safety of medications, plant and environmental substances and other exposures during pregnancy and lactation. The program is based at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health through the generous support and vision of the Vohra Miller Foundation.   

The vision of First Exposure is to be Canada’s trusted bilingual source of evidence-based reproductive and lactation health information on exposures. Our mission is to evaluate and communicate the safety of medication and substance exposures in an accessible way to individuals and communities, so they can make informed choices within their own, unique and culturally safe contexts. 

Overview

Dalla Lana School of Public Health (DLSPH) provides strategic direction and business support for First Exposure.  An Executive led by the Dean’s Office is responsible for: 

  • digital platform co-design, 
  • internal quality assurance, and 
  • operational program delivery. 

 

The Executive works closely with delivery partner Health Nexus, a non-profit community health promotion organization, providing bilingual EN/FR implementation support.   

 

The Waakebiness Institute and the First Exposure Grandmothers Leadership Circle provides direction on Indigenous health.  

 

The Black Village Leadership Circle provides community-centred content and relevant health topics, including wellness, healing and sharing their experiences and while facilitating Black communities interacting with First Exposure.  

 

Leads of Equity and 2SLGBTQIA at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health collaborate with the First Exposure Executive.   

 

Our inter-disciplinary staff team includes:   

  • Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), 
  • Communications specialists, and 
  • Technical Support. 
The Executive

Dr. Adalsteinn Brown

Dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto (Founding Director, Institute for Pandemics)     

Dean Adalsteinn Brown is well known for his expertise in research, evidence-informed policymaking, health-care quality improvement, and health systems strategy. He also has extensive entrepreneurial and leadership experience in the private and public sectors.  

Professor Dean Brown has played a critical role in Ontario’s pandemic response, along with many DLSPH faculty members. He has worked collaboratively on health system resilience and recovery measures and efforts.  Professor Dean Brown is known in particular for his ability to clear complex hurdles to positive change in health care. 

Wendy Katherine

Executive Director

Wendy Katherine is Executive Director of the First Exposure Program and delivery partner, Health Nexus. As one of Ontario’s first registered midwives, she brings deep clinical, executive management, privacy and health quality improvement experienceAs a health policy and strategy executive for many years, she developed and supported the implementation of a range of innovative digital reproductive care programs. 

Dr. Cindy Maxwell

Medical Content Director

Dr. Cindy Maxwell, the Medical Content Director of First Exposure, has extensive clinical and scientific knowledge in complex pregnancy care, reproductive health, medication and lactation while demonstrating leadership and proficiency in teratology. She is Vice President, Medical Affairs & System Transformation and Lead Medical Executive at Women’s College Hospital and Professor, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine at the University of Toronto. She ensures the quality and efficacy of the curated content on the First Exposure website.

Dr. Jennifer Blake

Scientific Director

Dr. Jennifer Blake, Obstetrician-Gynecologist is the Scientific Director of First Exposure, is an experienced physician and respected leader who has facilitated major organizational change in hospital and academic sectors. During her 30-year medical career, Dr. Blake has held several clinical, academic and leadership roles, including Chief Executive Officer of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Chief of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Head of Women’s Health at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, and Chief of Pediatric Gynaecology at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.  

Subject Matter Experts

First Exposure Subject Matter Experts bring a range of contributions to the team, including: 

  • Pharmacologists, toxicologists, and epidemiologists, 
  • Pregnancy, newborn and lactation care providers, such as midwives, obstetricians, gynecologists, family physicians, nurses, social workers, pediatricians, and mental health specialists, 
  • Indigenous, Black and 2SLGBTQIA leaders,   
  • People with lived experience, 
  • Medical librarians, and  
  • Clinical content advisors in prenatal, primary care, equity and harm reduction. 

Using rigorous review procedures, SMEs provides specialty advice on medications and their uses in the community. In addition, they assist in clarifying the interpretations of pregnancy and lactation exposures.  

Subject Matter Experts that reviewed content for the First Exposure launch include: 

Pascale Alexandre  

Dr. Jennifer Blake  

Dr. Tali Bogler 

Pina Bozzo 

Dr. Andi Camden  

Katsi Cook 

Wendy Katherine 

Jay MacGillivray 

Dr. Cynthia Maxwell 

Wendy Phillips  

Anna Pupco 

Dr. Roberta Timothy

Dr. Elizabeth Uleryk 

Dr. Simone Vigod 

Judith Zarek 

Dr. Jonathan Zipursky 

Communications

Communications staff share unbiased, effective, scientific, reliable and up-to-date information on reproductive and child health to empower decision-making in an accessible manner. 

Technical Support

The First Exposure digital platform was created through the collaboration of technical teams at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, Health Nexus, and S&T Holdings