Indigenous medical student praises creation of 'much needed' national mentorship program
Ottawa giving $8M to program to support, encourage First Nations, Inuit, Metis health researchers
The federal government's decision to create a national mentorship and networking program for Indigenous people entering the health care field is "a much-needed step", according to Jason Beardy, a first year student at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) in Thunder Bay.
Beardy worked in his community of Muskrat Dam, which is about 600 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay and accessible only by air, for 15 years as a band councillor and deputy chief. He also worked with the Nishnawbe Aski Nation on health care issues.
But even with that wealth of experience, Beardy said that he and other classmates still felt somewhat lost at the start of medical school.
"We required so much guidance and direction, helping us to formulate our thoughts and our goals and aspirations."
'Help us move forward more quickly'
Beardy said previous jobs, and their own lives made some of the students feel, at times "overwhelmed with the need you see coming from our communities.. but not quite knowing how to move forward."
After just the first few months of medical school, they recognized how much they could benefit from being able to reach out to other Indigenous people who have already spent years working in health care.
"Some experienced people to answer questions and to give us that continued encouragement and support that we need to be able to move toward our goals" would be very valuable Beardy said. "That will close the gap so much into our own learning process and [help] us to move forward more quickly in terms of how we can provide services to the communities."
The federal minister of health, Jane Philpott, announced $8-million in funding for the Indigenous Mentorship Networking Program when she was speaking in Thunder Bay at the NOSM conference, Working Together for a Healthier North, on Wednesday.
The program will be characterized by a Two-Eyed Seeing approach which strives to combine Western perspectives with cultural teachings and knowledge around healing and traditional medicines.
"Obviously we hope that this will have a huge impact in terms of the health outcomes and of course acknowledging that the solutions lie very often within communities who know exactly what they need to be well," said Philpott.
The federal government is investing $8-million in the program, through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. It's geared towards any First Nations Inuit or Metis person at the undergraduate, masters, doctoral or post-doctoral level, who is considering a career in health care and health research.
The program will have eight teams, located in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.