Inuk nurse to take charge at Pond Inlet health centre

Sherry Parks is Nunavut's first Inuk nurse to be appointed supervisor of health programs. She will oversee the Pond Inlet community health centre.

Sherry Parks becomes first-ever Inuk supervisor of health programs

'There’s quite a bit of understanding between patients and myself,' says Sherry Parks, Pond Inlet's new supervisor of health programs. (Travis Burke/CBC)

Sherry Parks has become the first Inuk nurse to oversee a community health centre in Nunavut.

"I'm very excited," she said.

Parks, 30, has been acting in the role for the past two months, but will officially assume the position of supervisor of health programs in Pond Inlet on July 4. The Department of Health has confirmed Parks is the first Nunavut Land Claims Beneficiary to be the supervisor of health programs. 

Since starting the job, Parks said she's received positive feedback from the community as well as staff.

"There's quite a bit of understanding between patients and myself," she said.

"It's very important to have community members in a supervisory position representing the community, hearing the communities concerned, coming from the community, so they know the history, the family dynamics and the community dynamics."

Parks said she loves her job but the challenges vary from day to day.

"Right now we are short nurses, but working on it."

'I would like to encourage more people to take the nursing program because I think it really helps,' says Parks' mother, Jeannie Katsak. (Travis Burke/CBC)

'Nursing runs in the family'

Like many other teens in Nunavut, Parks had difficulty with the school system and dropped out of high school in Iqaluit.

Two years later, at age 18, she decided to move to Pond Inlet, her mother's hometown, to complete her education. This time she succeeded and received her high school diploma.

She enrolled in Nunavut Arctic College's nursing program and graduated in 2009. Since that time she's been working as a nurse in Pond Inlet. Parks is also the mother of two young boys, 

Parks is humble and shies away from the spotlight, but her mother Jeannie Katsak is less timid with her feelings.

"I'm super proud," she said. "Nursing runs in the family."

Park's grandmother was a nurse at the health centre for more than 25 years. Her great-aunt was also a nurse as well as her mother's cousin.

Katsak said elders in Pond Inlet have reached out to her to express their delight in having an Inuk nurse head the health centre. She said they tell her that it's easier for them to understand someone from the community who is aware of their cultural background.

"I would like to encourage more people to take the nursing program because I think it really helps," said Katsak.

"It gives elders a bit more confidence to go to a health centre."

About the Author

Sima Sahar Zerehi

Sima Sahar Zerehi is a reporter with CBC North. She started her career in journalism with the ethnic press working for a Canadian-based Farsi language newspaper. Her CBC journey began as a regular commentator with CBC radio's Metro Morning. Since then she's worked with CBC in Montreal, Toronto and now Iqaluit.