UHN Student and Postdoctoral Researcher Handbook

The ORT has created a comprehensive handbook for UHN Research students and postdoctoral researchers, which includes information on UHN policies, health & dental benefits, research services & facilities, wellness supports, who to go for help, how to get involved, and much more! An overview of the handbook contents can be found here.


The ORT has compiled a list of awards, conference grants and fellowship opportunities for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. Explore the opportunities and apply today!


ORT Funding Opportunties

A poster for the ORT Conference Participation Award with graphics of a prize award, a microscope, a magnifying glass, and the ORT logo in the outer corners of it. Text in the centre reads "Apply Now! ORT Conference Participation Award. Application cycles in March, July and November. Up to $500 to attend conferences
ORT Conference Participation Awards

Apply to receive up to $500 to support conference participation.
Award cycles are in March, July and November – to support conferences all year round!
Upcoming Deadline: July 5, 2024 at 5 p.m. ET

Yellow poster with blue shapes framing each corner. the ORT logo is in the top centre of the poster. Below it reads OSOTF Unilever/Lipton Graduate Fellowship. Apply Now!! Deadline to application opens in June
OSOTF Unilever/Lipton Graduate Fellowship

Fellowships are awarded to graduate students, registered with the UofT’s Faculty of Medicine, on the basis of financial need and academic excellence who are studying neuroscience at UHN.
Application Deadline:  July 12, 2024 at 5 p.m. ET


The ORT hosts and showcases a variety of events throughout the year to help trainees and postdoctoral researchers develop their research and professional skills and explore different career opportunities. Check out our Workshops & Events Calendar!


Physical and Mental Wellness at UHN

UHN Wellness provides a comprehensive approach to improving the health and wellbeing of TeamUHN. The UHN Wellness intranet page shares information on UHN’s emotional and mental wellbeing tools, informational resources, and wellness programs. Subscribe to UHN’s Wellness Weekly Newsletter to stay up to date on news, tips, events, and resources.

If you are experiencing a mental health-related crisis, seek help immediately by:

  • Contacting your doctor
  • Going to the emergency room at your nearest hospital
  • Calling 911 or Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000

Graduate students are provided health and dental benefits by their degree-granting institution. University of Toronto (U of T) students can find detailed information on benefit coverage and policies here. U of T graduate students with teaching assistant positions may be eligible for additional top-up benefits through CUPE.

Postdoctoral Researchers (PDRs) paid through the UHN payroll can opt into a group health benefit plan provided by Sun Life. Instructions on how to sign up for benefits are provided in PDR offer letters. PDRs can choose an individual plan or a family plan, which provides benefits for spouses and children. Information on plan coverage can be found here (UHN connection required).

  • PDRs with a Sun Life group plan have access to Benefit Enhancements effective January 1, 2023. This includes $1200 per annum for mental health coverage (including psychology, social worker, and psychotherapist), Gender Affirmation Surgery coverage, and an additional $500 per annum for Speech Therapy services.
  • For questions about benefits reach out to the UHN Benefits Team at Benefits@uhn.ca.
  • PDRs that opt-in to the Sun Life benefit plan can view information on coverage and rates by logging into their Sun Life account at ca or using the My Sun Life Mobile app. Sun Life can be contacted directly at 1-800-361-6212.

A list of supports for emotional wellbeing of TeamUHN are available here, including BRITE Resilience program, UHN Cares, Refresh program, and more.

UHN postdoctoral researchers also have access to the Employee Family Assistance Program (EFAP) (intranet access required) for support with personal and work-related pressures and stress. EFAP provides free and confidential counselling on topics such as achieving wellbeing, managing relationships and family, dealing with workplace challenges, tackling addictions, legal advice, and financial guidance. Learn more from the EFAP brochure. (intranet access required).

UHN has dedicated spaces for spiritual reflection at all hospitals. Locations and hours can be found here. In Princess Margaret Cancer Research Tower (PMCRT) room 4-504 is a dedicated space for prayer, spiritual reflection and nursing.

In addition to mental wellbeing, UHN also has resources for your physical wellbeing. UHN has three gym facilities located at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Toronto General Hospital and Toronto Western Hospital. Learn about the gyms and membership options here (Intranet link). Virtual and On Demand fitness classes are available here (Intranet link). Goodlife fitness memberships are also available at a UHN corporate rate (Intranet link).

Government Resources

The Ontario government website is a great resource to help find mental health and addiction services in your community.

Community Resources

There are many community resources that provide mental and wellness resources. These include:

  • ConnexOntario – Provides 24/7 access to information about mental health, addiction or gambling
    services and supports in your community.
  • Canadian Mental Health Quick Guide – Offers many mental health resources, services, and supports. Their Mental Health Quick Guide – Provides a comprehensive list of Toronto Mental Health Resources,
    Clinics, and Helplines.
  • Good2Talk – Provides free, confidential support 24/7. Call 1-866-925-5454.
  • Distress Centers of Greater Toronto – Provides a 24/7 helpline and online chat & text suicide
    prevention service. Call 416-408-HELP (4357).
  • Gerstein Crisis Centre – Offers 24/7 telephone support, in-person mobile crisis team, community
    support referrals, and more. Call 416-929-5200.

Graduate students can access wellness resources from their degree-granting institution. U of T students can access Health and Wellness Resources and Supports, including mental health working groups, Grad Minds, wellness services and more. The School of Graduate Studies provides free wellness counselling and workshops. U of T students can also access U of T gyms and their services, including Hart House, Goldring Athletic Centre, and Athletic Centre.

UHN security operations offers two safety programs to protect UHN staff, students, and volunteers. The Walk-Safe program offers a security guard to escort individuals to and from UHN sites safely. The Call-Safe program provides hourly safety-check calls to individuals working alone or who feel they are in high-risk situations. Information on how to access the programs can be found on the intranet here.

UHN’s COVID-19, Flu & Respiratory Virus Preparedness intranet webpage provides up-to-date information on how to be prepared for respiratory illnesses. The website includes outbreak statuses, screening tools, reporting forms, return to work declarations, booking for COVID-19 PCR tests, and many other integral protocols and resources. View the number of current respiratory virus cases at UHN and the allowable level of non-educational and educational on-site activities on the UHN intranet homepage here.

International Trainees

UHN welcomes qualified international candidates from all over the world! 
International student registration is handled through the University. International postdoctoral registration is handled mostly by the postdoctoral registration themselves. This page will take you through the process and provide you with helpful information before and after you arrive in Toronto. Please note that the ORT strongly encourages you to determine what documents are necessary for working in Canada by speaking with immigration officers at the Canadian embassy in your home country. The information below is only a guide and may not include all of the processes surrounding your work permit. The following is a summary of the procedures that entitle you to work in Canada.

When preparing to travel to Canada you must remember to bring several documents with you. These documents must stay with you at all times – not in your checked baggage!

  • Your passport
  • Your CIC-issued work permit
  • Letter of Offer/Engagement from the University Health Network
  • A copy of your immunization/medical records (in English)
  • The address in Canada where you will be living

Graduate Students

  • International graduate students should refer to their degree-granting institution’s policies on health insurance and health benefits.
  • International students attending the University of Toronto can find detailed information here regarding their plan.  

Postdoctoral Researchers

  • Postdoctoral researchers who are paid through the UHN payroll are eligible to enroll in the UHN Extended Health Care and Dental Care plan for Postdoctoral Researchers.
  • To enroll in this plan, International postdocs must first enroll in the Inpatriate Health Plan (IHP) which provides coverage for the 90-day OHIP waiting period. For more information and to enroll in the Inpatriate Health Plan (IHP), please contact the UHN Benefits office at benefits@uhn.ca

For information on how to apply for the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), get a health card and health insurance coverage, please see the Ontario Government Website. *Note that at this time there is no longer a waiting period for OHIP coverage and you can apply as soon as you arrive in Ontario and if you are eligible, you will have immediate health insurance coverage.

Refer to the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) website for information on applying for a work permit or visa.

If you are not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you must have a valid permit to legally work or study in Canada. Once you have been offered a position by a researcher at the UHN, you must obtain a Work Permit whether or not you will receive compensation from UHN.

After you received your Work Permit, your next steps are as follows:

  • Make your travel plans
  • Secure accommodation
  • Complete the required paperwork surrounding your new hire (contact your Supervisor to obtain necessary paperwork)

Note that in addition to work and study permit information, the Canadian Immigration and Citizenship (CIC) Office provides many programs and services to help ease the transition of newcomers to Canada. For more information, visit the CIC website.

International postdoctoral researchers are required to have a work permit in Canada (open or closed work permit) or a work permit exemption.

An open work permit is not job or employer-specific and allows an individual to work for any employer in Canada, except for an employer who is listed as ineligible. Learn more about Open Work Permits here.

  • UHN is not involved in the Open Work Permit process. International postdoctoral researchers pursuing an open work permit will have to apply on their own, but they can ask their future supervisor to provide an offer letter to support the application.
  • The two most common classes of open work permits are Post Graduate Work Permits, for new graduates from a full-time post-secondary program, and Spousal Work Permits, for individuals who have spouses with an offer of employment.

A closed work permit is tied to a specific employer, allowing the individual to only work with that employer at the same location, unless they change their work permit.

A work permit exemption allows individuals to enter Canada for reasons connected to their employment abroad without the need for a work permit.

If you have a work permit that is about to expire or that you need to change, you must apply to Extend or Change the Conditions of your Work Permit. Wait times to renew visas and work permits fluctuate. The Government of Canada suggests applying to extend your work permit at least 30 days before your current permit expires; however, it is recommended that you apply at least 3 months before your permit expires. Current processing times can be viewed here.

Note: If an international student intends to remain in Canada to complete a postdoctoral position, they must apply for a Canadian work permit, even if their student authorization is still valid. In addition to work and study permit information, the Canadian Immigration and Citizenship (CIC) Office provides many programs and services to help ease the transition of newcomers to Canada. For more information, visit the CIC website.

  1. Obtain a Social Insurance Number. All workers in Canada must obtain a Social Insurance Number (SIN) card. The SIN is required to receive your salary/stipend, open a bank account, file taxes, etc. To apply, go to Government of Canada SIN and follow the instructions. Applications can be done online, in person or by mail.
  2. Obtain a bank account at one of Canada’s major banks.
  3. Complete on-boarding tasks assigned by People & Culture (HR) and your Supervisor’s administrative assistant. This will include mandatory training and orientation sessions, Health Services Requirements, Payroll documentation, etc.
  4. Register with the ORT by completing this form!