Indigenous health is introduced to students in first year, so that all students will learn early in their medical education and training that, although Indigenous peoples have prevalent health and social problems, their holistic approach to health, cultures and traditions enable healing and resiliency. Communication strategies and therapeutic interactions with Indigenous patients, families and communities are emphasized.
The Indigenous Program relies on local and regional Indigenous community involvement to help us carry out our mandate in training Indigenous physicians and teaching Indigenous health in the medical curriculum. The Introductory Unit in the UGME program includes a full day dedicated to Indigenous health and social issues.
Starting with a lecture by a physician about Indigenous health, including a historical and social context, first-year MD students then meet an Elder or an Indigenous youth who will present their perspective on health and well-being as it impacts their personal life, family and community. Students then take part in an Indigenous Celebration at Victoria Island, traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
The Indigenous Celebration aims to present and celebrate the Indigenous Program, demonstrate the commitment and social accountability of the Faculty of Medicine and highlight the importance of Indigenous health and social issues in the medical curriculum. The afternoon also includes a traditional feast and a showcase of First Nations, Inuit and Métis cultures and traditions through music and dance.
Overall, the day is an opportunity to experience how protocol, ceremony, feasting and artistic expression are an integral part of contemporary Indigenous culture and identity, and therefore of our healing journey. It is our hope that the Indigenous Celebration will impart to all first year students as they begin their medical career, an understanding, appreciation and respect for the history, traditions and culture of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
During the month of September, the Indigenous Program hosts a Welcome Feast for the new Indigenous students starting out in UGME. The University of Ottawa’s Elder in Residence is invited to say the opening prayer and share words of wisdom and encouragement. It is a time to establish support networks as new arrivals connect with returning upper year students and are introduced to the Aboriginal Resource Centre team. Our Program Director also leads a discussion on Indigenous student priorities for the academic year.
Electives in Indigenous Communities
The Indigenous Program works with nearby First Nations, rural and urban Indigenous communities to organize elective opportunities for all medical students.
The Indigenous Health Interest Group (AHIG) was created by the students of the Faculty of Medicine’s Indigenous Program to promote interest in Indigenous health, culture and history. Its objectives are to provide the members of our group and our fellow medical students with information regarding the health issues faced by Indigenous populations, traditional methods of healing and a holistic approach to health care. We also aim to increase awareness of the importance of cultural competency in the field of medicine and an understanding of health care in Indigenous communities. Membership is open to all students.