On July 8, 2022, the Wije’winen Health Center opened its doors to the urban Indigenous community of Halifax, providing future opportunities for medical learners interested in Indigenous health.
An initiative of the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre, the new health center will provide a full-time academic physician position, becoming the first of its kind in Nova Scotia to officially welcome learners. Medical students and residents will be offered a comprehensive Aboriginal health experience, which previously did not exist in the core area.
Serving patients who have not had self-managed care options in the past, the center will serve as a space for urban Indigenous people to seek culturally safe primary care. At a time when the shortage of doctors is acute, the opening of the center could not be more timely.
Dr. Brent Young is an Anishinaabe family physician, Academic Director of Indigenous Health at Dalhousie Medical School, and Clinical Lead at Wije’winen Health Centre. Dr. Young explains that trauma-informed care is a strategy for providing a culturally safe environment for Indigenous peoples.
Dr. Brent Young talks with patient Charlotte Bernard
Dr. Young expects one of the takeaways for students to be the recognition that Indigenous peoples have a long history and prevalence of trauma, and that trauma informs and shapes their interaction with the healthcare system. health. He hopes students will keep this front and center when interacting with their patients and providing care.
Indigenous Centered Education
When asked what the program will entail, Dr. Young says they are just beginning to flesh it out. “We are only at the very beginning, there are a few drafts we are working on. I envision a program that provides a basic knowledge base before learners enter the clinic to ensure the safety of learners and patients.”
The clinic will provide learners with a structured, formal, Indigenous-focused education. “When we talk about the social determinants of health, we often talk about housing, employment, access to education and access to income,” explains Dr. Young. “We know these things are influenced or shaped by racism and colonialism. changing the way we think about and conceptualize the social determinants of health and providing that context for students going through the clinic.
Cultural safety is a patient-decided outcome. It’s a fluid concept that changes from person to person and over time. Dr. Young therefore expects future learners to practice more reflectively, to be honest in their self-assessments, and to adapt their practice to their patients as needed.
Last year, an application was submitted and approved by the MD committee for a full-time position, and Dr. Young joined the Department of Family Medicine University Funding Plan supplement.
“We saw this as an excellent opportunity for our department to exercise our social responsibility mandate. We wanted to make sure we had an educational connection with the clinic to support and promote Indigenous health education,” says Dr. Kath Stringer, Department of Family Medicine. head. “As a department, we look to communities for advice, feedback and leadership. We center education in the community and let them decide what their needs are. It is then our role to determine how we can best meet their needs and how we will teach them.”
Dr. Brent Young, Clinical Manager, and his staff gather for a photo.
New opportunities for students and patients
With the continued evolution of family medicine toward more collaborative models of care, students will be able to alternate between the more than 50 complementary services at the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre.
“The complex and unique needs of urban Aboriginal people are managed by interprofessional teams. Therefore, our learners must learn from allied health professionals at the centre, be they nurse practitioners, social workers, elders or community navigators; they’re all part of that education,” says Dr. Stringer.
Dr. Young hopes the future success of the Wije’winen Health Center will lead to expansion and the ability to hire more doctors, more allied health professionals, and provide holistic Indigenous health care to a wider range. of urban Aboriginal people living in the Halifax Regional Municipality. .