New department a first in Canada

Guest blog by Dr. Janet Tootoosis, interim vice-dean Indigenous health

On behalf of our team in the Office of Vice-Dean Indigenous Health, I am so proud to share with you the approval by University Council and the Board of Governors, and confirmed by University Senate, establishing a Department of Indigenous Health and Wellness (DIHW) in the USask College of Medicine (CoM) on April 24, 2023.

Achieving university governance approval for the establishment of the department has occurred over the past six months, but the work of gathering input from over 80 stakeholders and preparing the proposal for the new department began in May 2022. We would not have achieved this excellent outcome without the help of the many contributors to the proposal, and those who supported it through every step of the process.

I do want to thank the following people for their critical role in this work: in the CoM, the Indigenous Health Committee, Director Crystal Maslin, knowledge keeper Harvey Thunderchild, and Val Arnault-Pelletier; from across USask, Vice-Provost Angela Jaime, Director Jacquie Thomarat, Associate Dean Vicki Squires, Deputy Provost Patti McDougall, and Provost Airini; as well as the members of the working group, our Office of Vice-Dean Indigenous Health team, physicians of the college, and Dean Preston Smith.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, so for all the supporters and contributors to the creation of the department, thank you!

I thank the members of Senate who listened to me speak about what the establishment of this first-of-its-kind department in Canada means for creating real health and wellness benefits to the Indigenous Peoples of Saskatchewan and beyond. I can tell you that receiving a standing ovation there and experiencing the emotion of many that were in the room left our team filled with gratitude—and the fuel we will need to continue leading this important journey, in collaboration with others, for the next 20-plus years.

The next year will be focused on planning and implementing the first phase of department setup. An important milestone of this phase will include a formal celebration and launch of the department this fall. Watch for more news of that event this summer.

3 thoughts on “New department a first in Canada

  1. Amazing!

    I am not of indigenous descent, but have been serving indigenous communities as a physician for over 8 years and love the work, the people, and the culture. I think this is a fantastic step forward and am grateful to all who have participated in its implementation. Great work!

  2. Congratulations to Janet and the USASK team!! Hopefully this is one step forwards on the path in T&R, as well as being health leaders in Indigenous Health outcomes!

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