News at Medicine - December 2013 - Friendship circle aims to builds bridges of understanding

Friendship circle aims to builds bridges of understanding
December 11, 2013
The Aboriginal Health Initiative (AHI) moved forward Dec. 5 when the MUNMED Friendship Circle was launched. This student-run association is comprised of First Nation, Inuit and M├ętis and non-Aboriginal medical students with the goal of building bridges of understanding.
The launch took place in conjunction with the visit of Dr. Stanley Vollant, University of Montreal. Dr. Vollant is an Innu oncologist and surgeon from Pessamist on the Quebec North Shore, well-known in Canada for his pilgrimage on foot across First Nation ancestral lands. This was his second visit to Memorial to speak to medical students about building partnerships in healing. He talked to the first-year class on Dec. 4 and also spoke at the launch of the MUNMED Friendship Circle.  

Dr. Carolyn Sturge Sparkes, AHI co-ordinator, said the objectives of the Friendship Circle are to promote understanding, appreciation and respect among student, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. “The medical students will run the Friendship Circle and set their own agenda and timeline,” she explained. “Even the name is tentative until the group decides if they want it as a permanent name.”

Two board members of the AHI flew in for the launch – Dorthy Earle, representing NunatuKavut, and Gillian Harding, representing  Nunatsiavut.

The MUNMED Friendship Circle is one of the support pillars of the AHI.  Under this program, two seats are reserved each year for Aboriginal students in addition to regular entries. In 2011 there were six applicants and two Aboriginal students were accepted. In 2012 there were 18 applicants and six Aboriginal students were accepted. In 2013 five Aboriginal students were admitted to Memorial University’s medical school. As of fall 2013, the number of seats reserved for Aboriginal students will be increased to three.

Recruitment pillars of the AHI include school visits throughout the province and a Pre-Med Orientation/Mentoring Program designed for Aboriginal undergraduate students interested in medicine that familiarizes students with the admission process and links students with medical student mentors. Funding is also available for MCAT Prep Awards to prepare Aboriginal students to write the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).
Once in medical school, the Medical Mentorship@MUN program matches Aboriginal medical students with faculty and postgraduates through mentorship clusters with one mentor and four students. Curriculum pillars in place include Aboriginal health sessions. The new undergraduate medical education curriculum integrates  case study and problem-based clinical situations with a focus on Aboriginal peoples and their wellbeing. 

Medical students John Jeddore and Victoria Ralph with Dr. Stanley Vollant.

Dr. Stanley Vollant at the launch of the MUNMED Friendship Circle.

Aboriginal drummers Jenelle Duval, left, and Stacey Howse played following Dr. Vollant’s talk on Dec. 4.