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Indigenous Health in Medical Education

Posted on 22 October 2015 by Maddy Arkle

As a Métis medical student, Indigenous health is a topic close to my heart. Indigenous populations of Canada (which includes First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples) have unique health barriers and concerns largely based on historical, geographical and social factors. In order to address the specific health needs of Indigenous peoples, many medical schools have begun recruiting Indigenous students and incorporated Indigenous health into medical school curriculum.

I was part of a fantastic group of students from medical schools across Canada that authored a CFMS policy paper titled “Indigenous Peoples and Health in Canadian Medical Education” (link posted below).

The motivation behind this paper was a desire to encourage and assist Indigenous students in pursuing medical school. We also saw a need to address the exposure of Indigenous health topics to medical students and faculty with a focus on cultural safety. There are many difficulties and barriers faced when addressing Indigenous health. Every medical school has responded to these issues differently. This paper provides a national standard and clear direction for the future of Indigenous health in medical education.

Here is a summarized version of the paper’s recommendations:

  1. Increase Indigenous medical student recruitment (in a culturally safe way)
  2. Develop admissions policies that are equitable for Indigenous students
  3. Include mandatory, culturally safe Indigenous health curricula during pre-clerkship
  4. Implement experiential learning* modules into pre-clerkship
  5. Involve Indigenous health in clinical electives
  6. Support Indigenous health-focused extracurricular activities
  7. Prioritize employment of Indigenous physician leaders, Elders, and support staff within medical
    faculties.
  8. Ensure Indigenous cultural safety competency in all educators and support staff.
  9. Increase accountability to local Indigenous communities

*Experiential learning involves learning through experience. Here it involves acknowledging the difference and value of Indigenous perspectives, knowledge and cultural practices.

While many of these recommendations seem obvious, they have not all been addressed by all Canadian medical schools. The CFMS officially adopted this policy paper at their Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Windsor in September, so now the real work will begin! This is a small but mighty step toward advancing and improving medical education surrounding Indigenous populations. Read the full policy paper here: http://www.cfms.org/attachments/article/1370/Indigenous_Health_in_MedEd_AGM2015.pdfhttp://
www.cfms.org/attachments/article/1370/Indigenous_Health_in_MedEd_AGM2015.pdf

Finally, a very special thank you to Ryan Giroux (CFMS National Officer of Indigenous Health), Amanda Sauvé (Local Officer of Indigenous Health-Western), and the other team members Max, Reed, Danielle, and Kelita who put a tremendous amount of effort into this paper and who continue to advocate for Indigenous health across the country.

– Maddy Arkle (Meds 2018, Local Officer of Indigenous Health-Western)

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