Tibetha Kemble (Stonechild)
Director: Indigenous Health Initiatives
It is my great honour and pleasure to serve as the Director of Indigenous Health within the Division of Community Engagement in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta.
Over the last three decades, the Indigenous Health Initiatives Program (IHIP) has taken important steps towards closing the gap in the under-representation of Indigenous medical professionals and has been a leader in the recruitment and advancement of Indigenous peoples in the health care system in Alberta. As the IHIP moves into its 30th year, it is important to reflect on the significant contributions that Indigenous graduates of our program have made on the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples and more broadly across the healthcare system.
After completing their programs, many of our award-winning graduates have gone on to take leadership roles in health organizations across Canada or as medical professionals providing direct services within First Nations communities. At the direct-service level, their individual and collective contributions have made, and continue to make, important improvements to the healthcare system and to the deep and persistent health inequities experienced disproportionately by First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people in Canada.
At the system-level; however, we recognize that much remains to be done.
In June 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) issued its final reports which includes 94 Calls to Action. Using the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for implementation, these Calls to Action describe a clear path forward to redressing the legacy of Indian Residential Schools (IRS) and to advancing the process of reconciliation between Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous Canadians. At its foundation, these calls make clear that the persistent inequities experienced by Indigenous peoples in the areas of Child Welfare, Education, Language and Culture, Health and Justice are mediated by systems that must take positive and concrete steps forward with “many heads, hands, and hearts, working together at all levels of society…[with] sustained political will at all levels” for meaningful change to occur. It is this precise and direct message that guides my efforts as I work collaboratively across the Faculty to make system-level changes that are responsive to the historically and socially-rooted manifestations of our current health status.
Looking forward, I am grateful for, and humbled by, the opportunity to be a part of a strong and interconnected network of passionate individuals and to lead IHIP in supporting Indigenous students along their journey. I honour the contributions of those who are dedicated to improving the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples, both past and present, and for those yet to come.