The Current

ENCORE: Meet Dr. Nadine Caron, Canada's first female First Nations surgeon

As the first female Indigenous woman to graduate from UBC's medical school, Dr. Nadine Caron says there's so much to be done to ensure Canada's Aboriginal people get the health care they need. And she knows how hard it can be from her own experience.
Traditional Indigenous healing practices and Western medicine can co-exist, says UBC's Dr. Nadine Caron. (Courtesy of Dr. Caron)

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Meet Dr. Nadine Caronthe first Indigenous woman to graduate from the University of British Columbia's medical school at the top of her class and Canada's first female First Nations general surgeon. 

The trailblazer tells The Current's guest host Laura Lynch that despite challenges, she's optimistic about the future of Indigenous health care in Canada. But that doesn't mean there isn't work to be done.

"Sometimes I'm so optimistic...And then on other days I experience things in the hallways or I hear things that are unintended to be heard and you just hang your head ... And so I think in the end it's just like anything else. We're not there yet but we don't even have the right to stop trying to get there."

For the past two years, the UBC medical school has instigated mandatory training in cultural competency and cultural safety for their medical students. It's a move that Dr. Caron, also an associate professor at UBC's Northern Medical Program, says is "a real leading role in terms of how post-secondary institutions can take responsibility for the professionals that they're training."

It's a role that addressed the prevalent racism in the medical profession that Dr. Caron has personally experienced.

"I remember this one time, it was many years ago ... And a surgeon came in. And he ... had just finished a long case. And he sat down and was like, 'phew, if I never operate on another Indian it'll be too soon'," Dr. Caron tells Laura Lynch.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission made a number of recommendations around Indigenous health care including recognizing traditional healing practices.

According to Dr. Caron, traditional Indigenous healing practices and Western medicine can co-exist.

"I completely agree that our First Nations people and our other Aboriginal people in Canada really need to be respected," Dr. Caron tells Laura Lynch.

"If this is another area where they turn to for their health and and for their treatments then we need to work in collaboration with them to just make sure that what are they doing, what do we propose, how will it fit together — instead of feeling like we have to choose."

This segment was produced by The Current's Liz Hoath and Idella Sturino.