Indigenous Health Initiatives (IHI) hopes to help correct the under-representation of Aboriginal Peoples in health-care professions. IHI assists qualified Aboriginal students gain admission and graduate from the University of Alberta’s medical and dentistry programs. The initiative was founded in 1988 by the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry.
As of June 2015, 157 Aboriginal physicians have graduated with the help of IHI. A growing number of those who have completed their training are taking leadership roles in Aboriginal health programs and organizations across Canada. They are also providing direct health services to First Nations communities.
Whether they participate in Aboriginal health research or administer care, the faculty believes its Aboriginal students are leaders and role models in their communities.
Aboriginal Peoples who want access to physicians from their culture face a challenge. According to the Canadian Medical Association, in 1993, the ratio of Aboriginal physicians in Canada to was 1:30,000. This statistic is meager in comparison to the overall ratio of physicians to the general population, which was 1:600.
Despite recent advances in the health status of Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples, significant differences remain, including shorter life expectancy, higher infant mortality rates and higher morbidity rates than the general population.
The mandate of the Indigenous Health Initiatives is:
- Correct the under-representation of Aboriginal physicians in Canada by encouraging more Aboriginal students to consider careers in medicine and dentistry.
- Coordinate their admission into the MD program and other programs within the faculty.
- Provide support services to enable students to graduate successfully.
It is the faculty’s belief that Aboriginal students with a commitment to their culture and traditions will serve as role models for other Aboriginal youth, become leaders in producing improvements to Aboriginal health standards and enrich the faculty as a whole.
In order to fulfill this mandate, the faculty has instituted special status admission to the MD and DDS programs for Aboriginal applicants. The faculty has a national proactive recruitment policy.