This U of T alum and prof helped people grappling with mental illness and homelessness
A little kindness goes a long way, but Paula Goering – who dedicated her life to improving the lives of others, before passing away of cancer in May – went beyond the call of duty.
After obtaining her PhD from U of T’s Institute of Medical Science in 1985, Goering became a psychiatry professor at the university, where she was known to lead daunting large-scale projects. Her life’s work culminated in a five-city study that showed the “Housing First” model – where people grappling with homelessness and mental illness are provided with a place to live, along with preventive care – to be an effective long-term approach. “Paula was always bold and fearless in her commitment to helping those in need,” says Donald Wasylenki, former chair of psychiatry at U of T.
Throughout her career in mental-health-services research, Goering extended kindness to everyone, from befriending the people she worked with (many of whom struggled with mental illness) to organizing celebrations. “She’d bake a chocolate angel food cake – my favourite kind – for my birthday every year,” says Wasylenki. “She believed in making a difference in the world, no matter how small.”
Farah Mawani, a PhD candidate in public health sciences, had assumed that Goering would step down as her co-adviser. “She said, ‘No, I want to see you through to the end,’” Mawani recalls. “I was not able to complete my PhD in time, but I will carry her kindness, generosity and belief in me forever.”