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Student studying at Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre

Progress Report: Our faculty’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Report Calls to Action

The word progress is key in the context of our response to the Calls to Action contained within the Truth and Reconciliation Report (TRC). The Faculty of Health Sciences has made great strides in responding to the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Report, and we are proud of the work that we have done so far. But we are by no means finished. Creating a welcoming and safe place for Indigenous students, staff, faculty, and patients will remain a faculty-wide priority. The Indigenous Health Education Working Group, co-lead by Dr. Leslie Flynn and Dr. Michael Green will also continue work towards our main objective: directly responding to the Calls to Action in the TRC.

This year has seen growth in partnerships made with important stakeholders. Our Indigenous Access and Recruitment Coordinator, and Coordinator of Indigenous Curricular Innovation have developed meaningful working relationships with Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre (FDISC) staff, and Associate Vice-Principal of Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation at Queen’s, Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill), and with Indigenous staff in other Queen’s faculties. These connections have stretched outside the Queen’s community as well. Partnerships have been made with the National Indigenous Health Sciences Circle (NIHSC), a group made up of indigenous representatives from health care programs around Canada and whose annual conference was hosted here at Queen’s in 2018, the Kingston Branch of the Métis Nation of Ontario, and importantly, prospective Indigenous students.

Our approach to recruitment and assistance, led by Cortney Clark, Indigenous Access and Recruitment Coordinator, is known as “wraparound service”. Students have her direct support from when they apply to when they graduate from their program. Cortney’s recruitment efforts have taken her across the province, where she engages with Indigenous students at all ages, including speaking with families at the Little Native Hockey League (LNHL) in Mississauga. This year, an unprecedented 17 Indigenous students were asked to interview at the School of Medicine. During this period, Cortney welcomed the students with invitations to meet current Indigenous medical students, interview preparation support, a tour of the facilities, and a communal meal.

When our incoming Indigenous students have arrived at Queen’s, Cortney collaborates with FDISC to offer cultural services such as sweat lodge ceremonies, smudging ceremonies, full moon celebrations, and monthly feasts. Cortney’s energy and dedication are infectious; “I understand the need for this work,” Cortney says, “and I want to use my lived experiences and abilities to help propel reconciliation through accessible and culturally safe higher education.” In fall 2019, we were thrilled to welcome 24 new Indigenous students to our faculty.  

As health educators, we continue to focus on decolonizing our curriculum in order to train health care providers who can offer culturally safe care. But this change must be led by those who are training our students. As such, this year we focused on initiating a culture shift among our faculty members, with the help of Indigenous scholars and community leaders:

  • In May 2019, Dr. Barry Lavallee, member of Manitoba First Nation and Métis Communities, and a family physician trained at the University of Manitoba, delivered three days of training on working with Indigenous communities. The public lecture, Racism as an Indigenous Social Determinant of Health, described systemic racism faced by Indigenous patients. Dr. Lavallee also facilitated a faculty development workshop on promoting cultural safety for Indigenous patients through teaching methods. His final session was a medical round on Indigenizing educational research and workforces in healthcare.
  • Since 2015, the Department of Family Medicine requires that all residents complete an Indigenous Cultural Safety course offered through our Department of Family Medicine’s Global Health day. As of October 2019, roughly 280 family medicine residents have completed the course.
  • Faculty members in leadership roles have been supported to attend workshops designed to improve their personal understanding of the Indigenous experience.

These types of learning opportunities have helped our faculty members to begin to incorporate Indigenous knowledge into their curricula and will be offered on an ongoing basis.

Full curricular reviews from an Indigenous perspective are already taking place, specifically with the following courses and faculty members:  Dr. Trisha Parsons in Physical Therapy (Health Conditions) and Dr. Joneja (Global Population Health and the accompanying online module). These reviews, paired with continuing education, will continue to be a priority as we move forward.

We are proud of the progress which we have made in a relatively short amount of time; none of which would have been possible without the support and dedication of the Indigenous staff, faculty, and students at Queen’s, and our Indigenous partners. We are energized for the future, and eager to continue this important work.

Share your thoughts by commenting on the blog, or better yet, drop by the Macklem House, my door is always open. 

Related: Oct. 23rd: Dr. James Makokis, Two-Spirit, Indigenous Physician Lectures at Queen's School of Medicine

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