UBC medical students learn to care for Indigenous people

Students in health-related studies to take course, workshop to help better serve Aboriginal people

The University of British Columbia is on mission to train future doctors, dentists and other health-care providers to treat Indigenous patients by learning about the pain inflicted by past Canadian policies.

First-year students in midwifery, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physical therapy, genetic counselling, social work, dental hygiene and dietetics are required to take an online course and two workshops to help them better serve Aboriginal people.

In 2018, students in audiology and speech and language pathology will also participate.

Jason Min, who teaches in the university’s faculty of pharmaceutical sciences and has worked with the Lil’wat Nation, facilitated a workshop Thursday for students in various programs.

“I think I graduated feeling confident in my knowledge of medications and how they worked. I didn’t know that was not enough to provide good care,” he said.

He said training health-care students in their first year to reflect on stereotypes and Canada’s colonial legacy will allow them to become better clinicians and see every patient as an individual.

The name of the program — UBC 23-24 Indigenous Cultural Safety Interdisciplinary Learning Experience — is a response to calls for actions 23 and 24 from a report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. They’re among a list of 94 actions recommended by the commission to redress the legacy of residential schools.

The program was launched this month.

First-year medical student Dakota Peacock said health-care professionals have a lot to learn about “cultural humility” involving Indigenous populations subjected to systemic racism that caused them to distrust those treating them.

READ MORE: UBC students gain new source for naloxone kits

WATCH: High prescription drug costs hinder access for seniors: UBC study

“Having the humility that we don’t know everything about this person in front us means we cannot make assumptions and we should not be stereotyping them,” said Peacock, who aims to become a neurologist.

One professor’s story has stuck with him, and it’s about an Indigenous man who arrived at an emergency room with slurred speech and “disorderly” movements. Staff assumed he was drunk and didn’t treat him. He died of a brain injury.

“I’m hoping to learn what we as health-care professionals can do to mend the divide between medical professionals and Indigenous Peoples, a divide that has been created as a result of the residential school system,” said Peacock.

Dr. Nadine Caron, co-director of the Centre for Excellence in Indigenous Health at UBC, said the training will provide health-care students opportunities to work in environments where they understand some of the root causes of health determinants, such as poverty.

“We expect the students to work together as equals to figure out what’s important to them as health-care trainees, to become the best health professionals they can, in a country that has its history,” said Caron, who is Indigenous and a surgeon in Prince George, B.C.

“There have been so many silos. It’s not that different programs haven’t tried to address this. But there’s never been an interdisciplinary curriculum that’s meant to be taken as a mandatory component for a health-care trainee who graduates from UBC.”

Caron said her hope is that eventually, Indigenous people will journey through every stage of care with professionals who have had the training to provide the respect all patients deserve.

“As a health-care professional, you won’t be the one saying you’ve done it right,” Caron said. “It’s the humility of recognizing that regardless of the number of degrees after your name it’s the patient and their family who are the experts in terms of how you made them feel.”

Carrie Anne Vanderhoop, who led the development of the curriculum as part of her work in the Centre for Excellence in Indigenous Health, said regulatory colleges of various health-care professions in British Columbia have committed to fostering “cultural safety.”

The province has more than 200 First Nation bands and over 60 per cent of Canada’s Indigenous languages are spoken in B.C., she said.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kootenay and Boundary farm advisors services extended through July 2021

KBFA has engaged with 850 producers from 563 farms since June of 2018

Mount Baker students support Spooner Park initiative

Outdoor Education and Geography students work with Mainstreams to clear weeds, support ecosystem

Nine new COVID-19 cases announced in Interior Health region

The total number of cases since the pandemic started is now at 531 for the region

Cranbrook and Kimberley Councils support initiative calling on BC Gov. to cover prescription contraception

On September 14, 2020, Cranbrook City Council unanimously passed a motion calling… Continue reading

Former MP Wayne Stetski running for BC NDP in Kootenay East

Former federal MP Wayne Stetski is running as the BC NDP candidate… Continue reading

B.C.’s top doctor encourages Halloween costumes to include masks

Dr. Bonnie Henry will soon be releasing guidelines on how to safely trick-or-treat this Halloween

Action demanded over death of First Nations youth in Abbotsford group home

Family and Indigenous organizations push for thorough investigation

B.C. nurses report rise in depression, anxiety, exhaustion due to pandemic

A new UBC study looks into how the COVID-19 response has impacted frontline nurses

Horgan frustrated as Transport Canada mandate for BC Ferry riders returns

Transport Canada reinstates rule that bans passengers from lower decks

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Reincarnation, baby! Music-making B.C. couple celebrate ‘miracle’ pregnancy

‘I (said) to Adam, ‘I really think this is your brother reincarnated,’ Elise Estrada says

Survey finds doctors worry supplies of flu vaccine, PPE will lag demand

Canadian health officials have said additional flu vaccines have been ordered to meet expected demand

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

Most Read