Dr. Yoni Freedhoff (BSc ‘95), a national public health expert and leader in the fight against obesity in Canada, never planned to become a physician at all. Now a medical doctor operating a clinic in Ottawa, Dr. Freedhoff is not only a physician, but also a public advocate for healthy living, who has helped thousands of people re-think their relationships to food and exercise.
Dr. Freedhoff’s time at York had a personal connection – his mother was a professor here – but it didn’t take long for him to develop his own interests and career direction. “It was at York that I learned how to develop my ‘zitsfleish’”, Freedhoff says. “It’s a Yiddish word that translates loosely to ‘sitting power’. Unfortunately for me I suppose marks didn’t come easily and in order to get the grades I needed to get into medical school, I had to spend more hours in York’s libraries than I did in my own home!”
With much hard work and the support of helpful faculty, though, a young Yoni Freedhoff graduated with his BSc in Biology, and then proceeded to medical school at the University of Toronto. On graduation from med school, with honours, he was awarded the Betty Stewart Sisam Award – given to the graduating student who “has shown the greatest human understanding and care for the welfare and health of patients.”
Not long into his medical career Dr. Freedhoff discovered his true calling. The first hints came in the form of the many inquiries he would receive from his patients seeking weight-loss advice. Obesity management had not been covered in medical school, so Dr. Freedhoff pursued additional training at the American Board of Obesity Medicine (ABOM), the only organization of its kind in North America. In 2005 he became one of only three physicians in Canada to be ABOM-certified for bariatric medicine. Dr. Freedhoff then founded the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa, as its first Medical Director, to work with patients to develop non-surgical weight management strategies.
Dr. Freedhoff is a recognized national expert by the Canadian Obesity Network, and served as the network’s first Family Medicine Chair in 2010. He has also advised Canada’s House of Commons and Senate on deficiencies in the Canada Food Guide as it relates to obesity management for Canadians. “Some of my proudest accomplishments relate to my work in social media. I’ve been able to leverage my work there to affect positive change in public health,” Freedhoff says.
Dr. Freedhoff, now one of Canada’s foremost obesity experts, is a sought-after public speaker, and an Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Ottawa’s medical school. He is quoted frequently in the national and international media, making regular appearances on NBC’s Today Show, CBC, A Channel and CTV. He is also author of the award-winning blog, Weighty Matters, which promotes proper eating and nutrition to the public, and has co-authored the medical textbook “Best Weight: A practical guide to office-based weight management”. His latest book, “The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work,” debuted in 2014 and became a Canadian bestseller.
Dr. Yoni Freedhoff is a champion of new ways of thinking about dieting and exercise. His time at York helped him discover his passion for promoting human health, and set him on a path to significant impact.
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