British Columbia

New UBC chair will study how cancer outcomes of Indigenous people in B.C. can be improved

Dr. Nadine Caron, Canada's first female Indigenous general surgeon, will study the experiences and unique needs of Indigenous cancer patients, survivors and their families in her role as the First Nations Health Authority chair in cancer and wellness.

Dr. Nadine Caron appointed First Nations Health Authority chair in cancer and wellness

Dr. Nadine Caron has been appointed to a newly created position at the University of British Columbia dedicated to improving cancer outcomes and wellness among Indigenous people. (Martin Dee/University of British Columbia)

Canada's first female Indigenous general surgeon has been appointed to a newly created position at the University of British Columbia dedicated to improving cancer outcomes and wellness among Indigenous peoples.

Dr. Nadine Caron will study the experiences and unique needs of Indigenous cancer patients, survivors and their families in her role as the First Nations Health Authority chair in cancer and wellness.

Over the course of her five-year term, Caron will collect and report on Indigenous cancer experiences and outcomes, and aim to better understand the health-care system's responsiveness to Indigenous cancer care needs.

She told CBC her focus will be on figuring out if traditional cancer research and treatments work as well for Indigenous people as they do for the rest of British Columbians. 

She said that until now, no one has ever researched how well standard of care — what the evidence has shown works for a particular cancer — works for Indigenous people. 

"We're using data and research based on a different population. It might work, it might not," Caron said in an interview with On The Coast's Gloria Macarenko on Monday.

Another large part of her focus will be on wellness. She plans to meet with Indigenous communities to figure out if wellness should be measured in the typical academic sense or if there is a new way to look at it. 

Caron said this could be an opportunity to merge Western medicine with traditional Indigenous healing practices to improve cancer outcomes.

Dr. Nadine Caron during an interview at CBC's Prince George studios in 2019. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Research on cancer rates

Two years ago, Caron was the senior author on a study that found First Nations people in B.C. are less likely to survive a cancer diagnosis than non-First Nations people.

The study, published in the journal Cancer Causes & Control, also found some cancers, including colorectal and cervical, are significantly more common among First Nations, although the overall cancer incidence rate is lower.

Caron, who lives in Prince George, B.C., already serves as the co-director of UBC's Centre for Excellence in Indigenous Health and also provides surgical cancer care to rural populations.

The position is supported by a $1.5 million contribution from the First Nations Health Authority with matching funds from the university.

Click the link below to listen to the full interview:

January 6, 2020 Nadine Caron has been appointed to a newly created UBC position dedicated to improving cancer outcomes and wellness among Indigenous peoples. 10:51

With files from The Canadian Press & On The Coast