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Students practice suturing at a mini medical school. Photo: Provided by Lisa Abel.

Event aims to help Indigenous students succeed in the medical field

On Jan. 19 and Feb. 23, the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Medicine will host a mini-medical school program focused on the experience of Indigenous people working in healthcare.

The mini-medical school includes one-day workshops, summer camp programs, and a lecture series that will explore issues in Canadian healthcare in a hands-on environment. Come Walk in Our Moccasins was borne of this program, and seeks to address Indigenous issues in the healthcare system while preparing youth for a career in medicine.

“There is an under-representation of Indigenous students and Physicians,” said Catherine Noel Moran, a medical student and executive on the Indigenous Health Interest Group (IHIG).

“Our hope is that young Indigenous people will gain an interest in medicine as a career and see that as an attainable goal.”

The IHIG was founded by medical students to generate interest and discussion about Indigenous-specific health issues in Canada. This includes the role medicine plays in traditional social structures, public health issues in remote communities, and the underrepresentation of Indigenous populations in the health-care system.

Lisa Abel, the coordinator of Come Walk in Our Moccasins added,“Attending our Mini-Medical school is an opportunity to meet face to face with our Indigenous Program Director, and our Indigenous Program students.”

Abel represents the Undergraduate Medical Education Program (UGME) Indigenous Program—an organization that helps First Nations, Inuit, and Metis students succeed in their medical career. The program provides a separate admissions process and a culturally specific curriculum to ensure Indigenous students get a fair chance in the field.

“We serve as a resource and support to all MD students and faculty members, to ensure that Indigenous health and social issues are an integral part of the UGME curriculum,” Abel said. “The benefit is that we are helping to train physicians who are able to practice culturally safe care in serving Indigenous populations.”

Come Walk in Our Moccasins describes itself as a collaborative and hands-on approach to learning, and so the workshop will feature practical skills including casting and suturing in addition to group discussions.

Abel offers some final advice for students breaking into the medical field.

“We are generally looking for well-rounded people. Balance your studies with other things that interest you. Take advantage of opportunities to find mentors and our Indigenous Program is here to support you along the way.”

To find out more about the event and how to register,  visit the uoCal event page  Learn more about Indigenous opportunities offered by the Faculty of Medicine here.