News at Medicine - August 2015 - Healers of Tomorrow Gathering provides unique health care opportunities for Aboriginal youth

Healers of Tomorrow Gathering provides unique health care opportunities for Aboriginal youth
August 13, 2015
Memorial University has launched a health care careers camp for Aboriginal high school students in the province. Initiated by the Faculty of Medicine’s Aboriginal Health Initiative, in partnership with College of the North Atlantic and with funding from the International Grenfell Association.
The camp's name as translated in Mi’kmaq, Innu-Aimun and Inuktitut.
The camp was for students in Grades 10-12 and took place from Aug. 1-7, 2015 at Memorial University’s Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook.

Representing four Aboriginal communities in the province, 11 students from Nunatsiavut, NunatuKavut, Sheshatshiu Innu and the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band attended the event.

Presenters represented health-care professionals who work in various careers from university and college-related programs such as medicine, nursing, pharmacy and social work to college programs such as lab technology, paramedics and dental therapy. During sessions with the presenters, students were able to hear the professionals share their experiences working in their field, something the students may not be able to encounter in their communities.

“Memorial University is an educational institution for everyone in Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Dr. Gary Kachanoski, president and vice-chancellor, Memorial University. “Public engagement is a core priority for the university and it is through programs like the Healers of Tomorrow Gather that the Faculty of Medicine is building strong partnerships and establishing collaborations that will benefit the province into the future.”

In addition to 10 profession-focused sessions, students engaged in first aid training and hands-on activities facilitated by a team from the Clinical Learning and Simulation Centre at the Faculty of Medicine. This included activities where participants learned and then practiced basic medical techniques like intubation, suturing, and IV insertion on mannequins and inanimate models.

A student learns how to suture an open wound.

“The Faculty of Medicine’s Healers of Tomorrow Gathering is an opportunity for Aboriginal students to see how they can be our health care providers of tomorrow,” said Dr. James Rourke, dean of medicine. “In partnership with College of the North Atlantic and the province’s Aboriginal peoples, we’re collaborating and creating important connections with these students and their communities.”

Elders and healers from Nunatsiavut, NunatuKavut and the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band were also present to teach students about Aboriginal cultures and medicine. Including this element into the program was important to help educate the students about their own heritage and how it can be combined with health care.

Before leaving the camp, one student shared what they were thankful to have had the experience and that by having some of the elders and healers from there community there, it made them proud of their roots.

In addition to educators and health-care providers connected to programs at Memorial University, many presenters were also professionals from programs available through the School of Health Sciences at College of the North Atlantic (CAN).

“College of the North Atlantic values the opportunity to partner with Memorial University on future-minded initiatives such as the ‘Healers of Tomorrow Gathering’,” said Jane Gamberg, dean of health sciences, CNA. “Showcasing the health sciences training programs of both institutions to potential candidates from all areas of Newfoundland and Labrador facilitates deeper connections to a sustainable provincial healthcare workforce. With 17 campuses located throughout the province, College of the North Atlantic is well-positioned to fulfill this collaborative role and sees great potential for future partnerships.”

Dr. Carolyn Sturge Sparkes, the camp director and co-ordinator of the Aboriginal Health Initiative, is a clinical assistant professor in the division of community health and humanities in the Faculty of Medicine. She feels it was important to show the campers a cross-section of the different health care professions.

“It was wonderful to see students engaged with so many presenters from the western region of the province who volunteered their time. It really made an impact,” said Dr. Sturge Sparkes. “We had students who learned about professions that they didn’t know existed such as dental therapy which fascinated one student in particular.”

The International Grenfell Association, a non-profit organization, was started in 1914 by British medical missionary Sir Wilfred T. Grenfell. The organization’s original role was to provide health care, education, religious services, and rehabilitation and other social services to the fisherman and coastal communities of northern Newfoundland and coastal Labrador. It currently provides funding for initiatives that are community-focused, which was a key goal for the Healers or Tomorrow Gathering.

With such a positive response from the camp’sinaugural session, Dr. Sturge Sparkes looks forward to offering the camp again in the summer of 2017.

“Our goal is to offer this camp every two summers so that as many Aboriginal students from across the province as possible can benefit from the program.”