Announcement: Indigenous Leader in Residence

Schulich Medicine & Dentistry strives to create an environment that is inclusive and culturally safe for all people and is working to specifically address the health of Indigenous peoples and communities.

Following several months of planning and extensive, thoughtful consultation with Indigenous leaders across Southwestern Ontario, a new position for an Indigenous Leader in Residence (ILIR) has been created at the School.

This new leader will act as the champion for all aspects of the School’s Indigenous Health Action Plan and guide the School as it strives to achieve the goals set out by the Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action specifically related to health care education.

The individual will also ensure there is an environment where access to health care is equitable for all, with the aim of improving the health status of Indigenous people.

“The ILIR will lead the cultural transformation at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry to be a model of equity, diversity and inclusivity for Indigenous peoples,” said Dr. Jay Rosenfield, vice dean, Medical Education.

In December 2015, the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada released its final report and included 94 Calls to Action, with two specifically directed at health care education.

Calls to Action #23 and #24 respectively called for an:

  • Increase in the number of Aboriginal professionals working in the healthcare field; for the insurance of the retention of Aboriginal health-care providers in Aboriginal communities, and to provide cultural competency training for all health care professionals.
  • Medical (and Nursing) Schools should require students to take a course dealing with Aboriginal health issues, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, and Indigenous teachings and practices. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights and anti-racism.

On the heels of the announcement of the TRC report, Western University initiated its work on the development of an Indigenous Strategic Plan, which was subsequently approved by the Board of Governors in late 2016.

Meanwhile, Schulich Medicine & Dentistry was developing its own parallel Indigenous Health Action Plan to propose opportunities and goals to answer Calls to Action #23 and #24 and enrich its own culture. The Plan development was led by Adrean Angles, MPH’14, Indigenous Liaison Officer and Gerry Cooper, EdD, special advisor to the Vice Dean, Medical Education.

Angles and Cooper set out a comprehensive and in-depth process while establishing the Plan, engaging portfolios across the School and providing School leaders the opportunity to meet with and learn from a number of Indigenous speakers. School leaders also had the benefit of listening to many speakers and discussing priorities for the Plan.

“We were grateful to have the opportunity to engage in such a meaningful manner with people across Schulich Medicine & Dentistry to shape the School’s direction toward improving Indigenous health,” said Cooper.

A new leader to guide all aspects of the School’s plan was the result of extensive discussions amongst Schulich leaders regarding the 19 recommendations proposed within the Indigenous Health Action Plan.

Under the leadership of Angles and Cooper, a robust consultation process related to the creation of the ILIR position was undertaken with Indigenous communities regionally. Angles also attended an Indigenous Postsecondary Education Council meeting and shared the proposed role and responsibilities for the ILIR position and sought feedback.

“This was a real opportunity to step aside and let this be an Indigenous informed initiative,” said Angles. “It was vital that we consulted with the Indigenous stakeholders and people with lived experience who know exactly what is needed in order to create a meaningful position that can stimulate change.”

The consultation process provided the School with a broad assortment of feedback including comments about the position title, responsibilities, reporting structure and funding for the position. Indigenous community leaders also wanted to ensure that whoever was recruited to the role would have a strong understanding and, familiarity of the local Indigenous cultures with active/lived experience

“We are hopeful that the ILIR will guide us toward a more inclusive and culturally safe environment for all people,” said Angles.

The position has now been posted and the School hopes to be able to announce the incumbent in spring 2019.