Indigenous Program sets up students for success in the Faculty of Medicine
Posted on Tuesday, June 28, 2022
By Tiffany Barnes-Huggins
Marketing and Communications Officer
The Indigenous Program in the Faculty of Medicine is making great strides in its efforts to recruit, support and create opportunities for Indigenous students with interests in traditional healing methods, and working in healthcare systems in remote and rural communities.
With the goal of training Indigenous physicians who are proficient in Indigenous healthcare, the Faculty of Medicine’s Indigenous Program provides practical support to the ambitions and endeavors of Indigenous students. Beyond the support and sense of belonging that it provides to Indigenous students studying medicine, it also strives to increase awareness of Indigenous cultures, health, social issues and traditional knowledge within the MD curriculum for all faculty and staff at uOttawa.
The program has had quite a busy year and has achieved great success recruiting Indigenous students for the upcoming academic year. This summer five students from the program graduated and will soon be starting their residencies at the institutions they have been matched with. Due to successful outreach efforts, seven students will be joining the program in the fall which means all seven seats reserved for Indigenous students in the Faculty of Medicine will be filled.
Through the program, which is led by Director Dr. Darlene Kitty, students are supported to pursue academic opportunities such as attending medical conferences and participating in clinical rotations in rural and remote communities such as Moose Factory, Iqualuit and Sioux Lookout. According to Tanya Lalonde, the Indigenous Program Coordinator, part of her job is to “facilitate those connections and to hopefully prepare students before they go [on rotation] and let them know what it's like to work in an Indigenous community”. It is through this model of support that students are able to acquire the skills and knowledge they need to excel in their studies in a practical and holistic manner.
Strengthening knowledge of rural and remote communities
Most recently, students from the program visited Moose Factory, Ontario to participate in a clinical rotation where they worked closely with members of the remote community. Moose Factory is a small community located on traditional Cree territory along the Moose River and has a population of roughly 2,500 inhabitants, most of whom are Moose Cree First Nation. During the rotation, students worked closely with medical professionals at the Weeneebayko General Hospital and surrounding clinics.
Taylor Jamieson-Datzkiw, a student in the Faculty’s MD/PhD class of 2023, performed her medical rotation in the hospital and clinics of the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority (WAHA) and found the experience to be one of the most valuable medical school experiences she has had to date.
“The clinical experience was unlike anything I could have experienced down South. The challenges of Northern medicine are endless, resources and personnel are limited, and we often struggled to decide whether a patient was well enough to stay in their home community or if they need to be transferred out for more complex care. Getting to experience life on the island was a daily adventure and something I will never forget.”
Taylor took the trip given its alignment with her own career aspirations of working with underserved populations. Despite the medical challenges faced by patients in the community, she observed that many of them are working hard to overcome these obstacles.
“These communities have faced years of intergenerational trauma, many struggle with mental health concerns, despite this I would see many patients each week who had overcome substance use disorders on their own and were determined to have a better life for themselves and their children,” she shares.
Connecting students with active learning opportunities
In addition to supporting students to pursue medical rotations in Indigenous communities, the Indigenous program also helps students to attend conferences and courses related to this fields of study.
In April 2022, the program funded the participation of two learners at the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada (SRPC) Annual Rural and Remote Medicine Course. This conference not only brings together physicians and healthcare workers from rural and remote parts of Canada, it also provides active learning opportunities that are important for the development and growth of medical students.
The conference provides a unique opportunity for students to network and learn from physicians on topics such as suturing, intraosseous infusions, and tracheostomy insertion in a rural and remote context. The interactive and hands-on nature of the conference creates an environment where students can get a better understanding of practicing a variety of medical specialties. For students that are new to the Faculty of Medicine, such as first year student Hailey Land, these events can help them dive deeper into the subject matter in the presence of practitioners that first-hand knowledge and experience.
“The skills I have learned and the connections I have made will no doubt aid me in my future medical practice,” says Hailey Land.
For students who are more advanced in their medical degrees, such as Avery Palmer, who recently graduated from the Faculty of Medicine this summer, these opportunities can provide them with fresh perspectives to bring into their medical residencies. Palmer, who will be starting a residency in July with University of British Columbia Rural Indigenous Vancouver Island program, will be able to impart the wisdom she gained from the conference directly on the job. She also has the opportunity to pay forward the practical knowledge she gains from the residency at the next conference, “I'm looking forward to attending again in the future as a rural and Indigenous Family Physician,” she shares.
Consider supporting the University of Ottawa
The Dr. Arlington F. Dungy Scholarship for Students in the Faculty of Medicine's Indigenous Program was established on the occasion of his retirement as Associate Dean and Director of the Indigenous Program to award bursaries for Indigenous students in the MD program at the Faculty of Medicine.