Graduating students credit Indigenous Program for exceptional MD experience

Posted on Friday, June 11, 2021

A closeup of a traditional dancer, regalia and moccasins.

“With the support, encouragement and camaraderie we share, I feel it’s the best family dynamic available in an Indigenous program in the country.”

- Dr. Deron Britt, MD 2021

By Michelle Read
Writer

Catherine Moran and Deron Britt will miss their peers tremendously as they disperse across the country, continuing their quest to live out their medical dreams.

As part of one of the largest cohorts to ever graduate from the Faculty of Medicine Indigenous Program, they credit the program for an exceptional MD experience that supported their medical journeys—as well as equipping them for their dream careers.

“Throughout my life I’ve had a growing drive to help people in greatest need,” says Dr. Moran, who with Dr. Britt will graduate at the June 15 convocation.

A passion for advocacy

An Indigenous student of Métis background, Dr. Moran set out on her MD journey as a second career in 2017. Growing up in Sioux Lookout, she saw first-hand the hardships of remote communities, and how Indigenous, minority, homeless and other populations were often underserved by the health care system.

Dr. Britt, also of Indigenous ancestry, had a similar upbringing. His father was from Maniwaki, Quebec and subsequently moved to Sudbury, where Dr. Britt was born.

“Being from Northern Ontario, many friends and family had concerns regarding social determinants of health and inequality,” he says. “So from early on, I wanted to get involved in advocacy.”

Both embarked on a mission to help bridge health discrepancies in underserved populations, setting their sights on the Indigenous Program and the uOttawa Faculty of Medicine.

A family dynamic

Dr. Moran noticed all of the advantages of the Program during her research into medical schools.

“Their encouragement and support for students was apparent, including grants and other resources, and I felt it was a great opportunity to get Indigenous people into medicine,” she says. “I was very excited when they offered me my position.”

Dr. Britt felt uOttawa’s program checked all of the boxes he was looking for, and that it stood out among others in Canada.

“I can’t speak highly enough of the Indigenous Program,” he says. “With the support, encouragement and camaraderie we share, I feel it’s the best family dynamic available in an Indigenous program in the country.”

He, Dr. Moran and their classmates grew very close during their MD journey, always there for each other and bolstering each other during hard times. “There’s a sense of everyone rowing the boat in the same direction—it truly has a family feel,” says Dr. Britt.

Outreach beyond the Faculty

That family dynamic extends even beyond the Faculty. Dr. Moran has always been excited by all the initiatives at the Faculty to help Indigenous youth, and was inspired to help found a mentoring program for Indigenous undergraduate and graduate students at uOttawa interested in applying to medical school.

“For many, with no one in their family in medicine, they have no guidance in preparing their application,” she explains. “We pair them with Indigenous mentors—med students, residents and doctors—to help them through the process.”

Dr. Britt was influenced to get involved in that initiative upon meeting Program Director Darlene Kitty, a strong advocate of Indigenous rights and education who has woven many outreach factors into the Program.

“I used that as a platform to help Dr. Moran with the Indigenous Mentorship Program,” he says. “Later on, I also got involved with the Equity, Diversity, Inclusivity and Anti-Racism Committee.”

Putting their pride to work

For his upcoming residency, Dr. Britt matched to Urology at McMaster University, after which he aims to do outreach medicine for Indigenous and marginalized people.

“I hope to advocate for small communities to have better access to specialists, using perhaps virtual technologies that have come to light from the pandemic,” he says. “As a specialist, I’d still like to visit the communities—because of the concerns Indigenous communities have had with Westernized medicine, it’s important to bridge that gap. Having an Indigenous background and graduating from the Indigenous program, it’s something I take a lot of pride in.”

Dr. Moran has matched to family medicine at Queen’s University; although unsure where she will end up, she says as long as it’s close to an Indigenous community where she can make a difference, that is her ultimate goal.

“My plans are more on the mentorship side, but overall, Indigenous people appreciate being treated by Indigenous people – there’s more cultural safety and less stigma,” she says. “Working close to or within those communities would be a dream come true.”

Both agree it was a trying year, what with all the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Program’s wonderful support helped ensure we made it through,” says Dr. Moran. “We’re now ready to begin the next chapter in our journeys.

“It’s a very exciting time for us all.”


Dr. Catherine Moran and Dr. Deron Britt will graduate as part of the convocation taking place on June 15.

Read more about Catherine Moran’s journey in medicine.

Read about the Indigenous Mentorship Program, one of many mentorship programs at the Faculty of Medicine.

Dr. Catherine Moran

Dr. Catherine Moran, MD 2021

 

Dr. Deron Britt

Dr. Deron Britt, MD 2021

 

The Indigenous Program at the Faculty of Medicine

The Indigenous Program at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine was established in 2005 to increase the number of Indigenous students in the medical education program, support them throughout their journey and to increase awareness of Indigenous cultures, health, and social issues within the Faculty of Medicine. 

The Program ensures that Indigenous health and social issues, including their historical and social context, are an integral part of the UGME curriculum, starting with a mandatory Indigenous awareness day for all new students. The Program engages with First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities to secure and promote Community Service Learning placements and elective opportunities for all students. It is guided by an advisory group consisting of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Elders, local and regional Indigenous community members working in the health and education sectors along with two medical student representatives, meets biannually to provide advice, guidance and support to the Indigenous Program. They also serve as important resources as the Program works to incorporate Indigenous content and activities into the curriculum.

It is the goal of the Program to produce Indigenous physicians who will, alongside with their colleagues, become proficient in Indigenous health care to serve urban, rural and remote First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. Since 2005, the program has graduated over 70 Indigenous doctors.

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