Learner Perspectives: Dental student Delainey Mattern on building cultural sensitivities and awareness

“Because I am Métis, I feel a responsibility to raise awareness with my classmates about the historical and current abuses that Indigenous people face and how that has instilled, in some, a fear of health care systems including dentistry.

Delainey Mattern posing in her white coatAs dentists, if we can become more culturally aware and culturally sensitive and really understand the vulnerability of people, we can better connect with people and provide care in a culturally sensitive way. If I can share these perspectives and share the deeper meaning behind things, I can build more empathy amongst my peers and hopefully encourage others to volunteer and support Indigenous communities.”

Delainey Mattern is a member of the Dentistry Class of 2025. She aspired to be a dentist since she first shadowed her family dentist in grade nine. Years of being exposed to his practice and a volunteer trip to Guatemala to support community dentistry solidified her personal plans and inspired her to put in the work to achieve her goal.

Growing up, Mattern enjoyed exploring the cultural tradition of her Ukrainian roots. It was only about five years ago that she learned she also has Métis roots. She felt a range of emotions upon this discovery, and felt compelled to seek some wisdom from an Indigenous elder.

This started a journey of exploration, learning and unlearning for Mattern. It included participating in an Indigenous Leadership Program, learning about Métis culture, understanding her own privilege, diving deeper into her identity, and a reaffirmation of the difference she can make as a health care provider. 

“When I met with the elder, we spoke about my goal to become a dentist and I was reminded about how I can commit to the profession and give back while also reconnecting with my culture,” Mattern said.

“I believe that understanding privilege is important. And I believe being at Western is a privilege, and being part of this program is a privilege,” Mattern said. “It’s a blessing to be here. That’s why it’s so important for me to give back to the community and encourage and support others to do the same.”