Indigenous Health Initiatives Program

    Leaders behind systemic change making meaningful momentum

    By Sasha Roeder Mah on September 16, 2019

    By eliminating a quota system, the University of Alberta took action towards redressing historic limitations on Indigenous student admissions to the MD program.

    The leaders behind the systemic change—Jill Konkin, associate dean, Division of Community Engagement and Tibetha Kemble, director of the Indigenous Health Initiatives Program (IHIP)—were recognized with U of A’s 2019 Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Award.

    “Dr. Konkin was courageous in her leadership,” Kemble said. “When she asked the question, ‘Why do we have a limit at all?’ everything seemed to open up. I think our collaboration since then demonstrates how people within a system can work together to advance the needs of Indigenous peoples in meaningful ways.”

    Kemble and IHIP administrator Kenton Boutillier are committed to recruiting and supporting future Indigenous health professionals, engaging junior high and elementary students with valuable experiences that foster a sense of belonging within the professions.

    The IHIP also supports the faculty in building relationships with treaty organizations, individual First Nations, First Nations Education Authorities and other Indigenous representatives to encourage community members to consider the health professions.

    “I’m excited about expanding our community to help advance this important work,” Kemble said. This includes establishing a council of elders, creating an Indigenous mentorship network and broadening learning opportunities to strengthen relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

    There are more signs of hope than of struggle, stresses Kemble. Today, “there is a desire among non-Indigenous students, faculty and staff to work in partnership and collaboration to strengthen our connection to each other.”