Director's Message

As I enter my second year as Director of the Indigenous Health Professions Program (IHPP), I would like to start by saying niawen'kó:wa (a big thank you) to founding Director Kent Saylor, MD, for his incredible vision and for building a strong foundation upon which our increasing number of Indigenous learners can grow and flourish. As a longhouse woman, I am proud to represent my community and our teachings, while empowering other Indigenous, Inuit and Métis within Indigenous Health.

I can feel that our wonderful well-rounded team – which includes Associate Director Aparna Nadig, Program Manager Alex Allard-Gray, Outreach Administrators Joelle Majeau and Sophie-Claude Miller, and Administrative Coordinator Kaye-Anne Bunting – is continuously making a change for our students, for the better. We have been working hard to build trust and provide a space for dialogue, support and transparency for our Indigenous learners, their families and our Indigenous communities.

The IHPP’s central mission remains student success. We want to ensure that each of our students has a very individualized version of what success looks like for them and that we're supporting that. It should not be only about grades, but also about making sure their mental health is looked after, that their relationships with their professors are good and that they’re feeling successful overall. Our role is to accompany them and to provide a safe space where their families, Indigenous community members and allies in the Faculty are pulled into a circle of support to help them on their education journey.

Within the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), the IHPP is a bridge between the worlds of traditional knowledge and Western teaching, as well as between Indigenous learners, staff and faculty and the rest of the FMHS community. Part of our mandate is to educate and support our allies in the relationship building process, but we will also hold the Faculty accountable for how its members approach and work with students – because we are accountable to their families and communities. There are difficult conversations to have, but we must have them – reframed in a good way, with a good mind. As we move away from a disparity lens, we will reframe our teachings around our success, survivance and resilience.

It is time to move with our partners and allies beyond buzzwords and continue to focus on actionable items from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action: advocacy, training, teachable moments and experiential learning. This is where we can find common ground and create new ways to work together that respect different Nations’ approaches to integrating traditional knowledge. In the context of health professions education, it is our duty to ensure that we're all caring for our spirits and our bodies, moving forward together within education and within health.

I look forward to learning and healing with each and every one of you in the coming year, with many laughs along the way.

Sarah Konwahahawi Rourke, Ed.D., Akwesasne Mohawk Nation
Director of the Indigenous Health Professions Program

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