Sudbury

New scientific director aims to shine light on Indigenous health issues

Dr. Carrie Bourassa, the new scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research's Institute of Aboriginal Peoples' Health will take her post in February, but is already mapping out the approach she intends to take.

Institute’s goal is to help set national research agenda on Indigenous health

Dr. Carrie Bourassa begins her role in February as a scientific director with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. (Carrie Bourassa)

Dr. Carrie Bourassa, the new scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research's Institute of Aboriginal Peoples' Health will assume her post in February, but is already mapping out the approach she intends to take.

When it comes to the issues affecting Indigenous health — lower life expectancy, youth suicide — the key, she said, will be to listen.

"Over and over again we're hearing of the epidemic in youth suicide," Bourassa said, "and it comes down to asking youth, asking the community, what they need."

"They know what they need. They're telling us what they need. We need to give it to them. We need to listen to them. They're telling us, straight-out, what they need."

Institute first of its kind outside major urban centre

The institute is one of 13 organizations that make up the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and will be the first of its kind located outside a major urban centre.

Its aim is to foster the advancement of a national health research agenda to improve and promote the health of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Canada.

But despite the institute's far-reaching aims, Bourassa wants to keep its focus close to the people it serves, and said it's up to First Nations communities to tell her what issues need to be addressed first.

"I want to understand what are their priorities. Because it's not really up to me to decide priorities and I've never worked like that," Bourassa said, "so I want to get a really good understanding of what are their priorities, and how can the institute help to create those research priorities."

Shining a light on Indigenous health issues

Before her appointment, Bourassa spent 15 years as professor of Indigenous health studies at the First Nations University of Canada in Regina, during which time she said she focused on shining a light on the long-standing health issues and their roots that we as Indigenous peoples face.

The Institute of Aboriginal Peoples' Health will be housed within Sudbury's Health Sciences North Research Institute.

Bourassa's term as director will run for four years.