I am a Cree-Saulteaux woman, with my family roots going to Norway House Cree Nation and Peguis First Nation. My grandparents moved to the North End in 1954, the year my Dad was born, and that is where I grew up. I stayed in Winnipeg for medical school, graduating from the University Faculty of Medicine in 2002 and began my internal medicine residency here. I transferred midway through residency to the University of Saskatchewan, in order to pursue my research interests in Indigenous health, and then moved to Baltimore to complete a Masters in Public Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health prior to returning to Winnipeg in 2007 to begin clinical practice.
As a medical student, I sought out experiences in both Indigenous health and global health. I spent time in Norway House, Sanikiluaq NU, Coral Harbour NU, and in Zambia. These experiences, combined with the values instilled in me by family, led me to pursue a career focused on social justice, fairness, and the right to health.
Much of my career focus has been on closing gaps in health for Indigenous people and for other populations impacted by social factors, like poverty, that result in the unequal opportunity to be healthy. This has required focusing both on the upstream determinants of health and building mechanisms for the health sector to influence other sectors such as when I collaboratively led the development of the Health Equity Unit at Manitoba Health, and on ensuring the health care system provides equitable, high quality, culturally safe care to all.
Outside of working hours most of my focus is on my two daughters, Myla and Makena. I enjoy reading, yoga, and going to the gym. I plan on starting a professional coaching certification program soon.
Clinical General Internist
I have been practicing in the Adult Medical Clinic at the Grace Hospital since 2007. I joined a practice that focuses mainly on cardiology, with referrals coming predominantly from primary care clinics in the area and the emergency room. I continue clinical practice because, like many of you, seeing patients is my first love. Since I spend the rest of the week in academic administration, service delivery planning, and public health I find my clinic days grounding both in terms of how current public policy affects the population, and how current health care policy and related system issues are impacting patients, physicians and other members of the health care team.
Medical Officer of Health, and Medical Lead for Indigenous Health Programs, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
I transferred my role as a Medical Officer of Health from Manitoba Health to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority in 2014. My areas of focus in public health are on urban Indigenous health and on reducing the harms from commercial tobacco use. Practice in public health allows me to focus on those upstream determinants of health, with inspiration from the World Health Organizations Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. Both call on us to close the gaps in health in our country by recognizing that these are rooted in policies that create or maintain the unequal distribution of money, power and resources. These gaps in health, because they are created through policy choices are avoidable and unfair. They are also modifiable through different choices.
I have recently led community engagement sessions in Point Douglas around smoking and how we could close the gaps in smoking rates. What we heard is that if people had less stress from inadequate housing, unemployment, food insecurity and related issues then they would be more likely to quit smoking and their health overall would improve. The sustainability of our health care system would be greatly enhanced if we were to address these upstream determinants, and level up the health of Indigenous peoples and people living in low income households and neighborhoods.
As Medical Lead for Indigenous Health Programs some of the priority areas I am currently working on include the implementation of the Online Indigenous Cultural Safety Training so that members of the health care team have opportunities to enhance their ability to provide culturally safe health care for Indigenous people and families. I will be working with others to develop and implement an anti-racism policy in the Region, and to begin the collection of ethnic self-identifiers within our data systems that we can accurately report on health systems performance for the diverse populations the WRHA serves. All of these actions are aligned with the Region’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action, which I am collaboratively leading the development of.
Head, Section of First Nations, Metis and Inuit Health, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba
I have had a GFT appointment in the Departments of Community Health Sciences and Internal Medicine since 2007. In 2011 I became the Head of the new Section of First Nations, Metis and Inuit Health. The Section includes the J.A. Hildes Northern Medical Unit, the Manitoba First Nations Centre for Aboriginal Health Research and the Centre for Aboriginal Health Education. As such, the Section has roles in reseach, education, student recruitment, support and mentorship, and clinical service delivery in Manitoba and Nunavut.
Over the past five years the Section has had some remarkable achievements. We have advocated for, developed and implemented a 4 year longitudinal course in Indigenous health which is the most in depth Indigenous health course at any medical school in the country. We have developed a framework for research engagement with First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities and recruited a new Director for MFNCAHR who has led the growth the centre to it current membership of 55 university researchers. The NMU has vibrant primary care and specialist physician, medical rehab, and nursing programs operating throughout Northern Manitoba and Nunavut. Our physician vacancy rate is currently less than 5%, with an effective distributed physician leadership model, a Physician Charter that is aligned with the vision and principles of the Section, and new community partnerships now reaching into Southern parts of the province.
With the amalgamation of the five Colleges into the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences we have had the opportunity to develop a Faculty wide structure, the proposed Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing. The proposal to become formally recognized as an Institute is currently before University Senate. While we wait for its formalization, we continue to develop relationships across the Colleges with a view to further enhancing Inter-professional Education and Health Services in Indigenous Health.