Canadian Medical Association

As part of its 2015 report on the legacy of residential schools in Canada, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released 94 Calls to Action. Among them were seven related to health care – including calls for measurable goals to close the gap in health outcomes for Indigenous Peoples, support for traditional healing practices and an increase in the number of Indigenous Peoples in the health professions. 

Ensuring organizations like the CMA support, champion and learn from Indigenous led initiatives is critical. As we commemorate the 2023 National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, here are two Indigenous-led organizations the CMA Foundation is proud and humbled to work with.

Mentoring the next generation of Indigenous physicians 

According to the 2016 census, less than 1% of physicians in Canada identify as Indigenous compared to 4.5% of the population. 

The Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada (IPAC) advocates for the health of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples and equity in medical schools and the profession. Most Canadian medical schools have created admissions streams for Indigenous students. But Indigenous learners can face unique challenges – isolation and discrimination among them – which can have a significant impact on their wellbeing.

“I can't remember a high school counsellor, or anyone, actually, saying that I could do something like becoming a doctor,” said University of Calgary medical student Santanna Hernandez in an interview with the CMA’s physician wellness team.

Mentorship can help. By sharing lived experiences, peers and physicians can support students’ emotional well-being and set them up for success.

In 2021, IPAC launched a formal mentorship program with a grant from the CMA Foundation. It includes a platform to connect Indigenous medical students, residents and physicians for one-time or ongoing mentoring and facilitate goal setting and communications between matches. IPAC also hosts events ranging from in-person dinners to sessions on navigating CaRMs.

“Through funding from the CMA Foundation, The Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada has been able to serve our members in a way that was not previously possible. In addition to our funding agreement, the CMAF has been a constant and generous source of support.  This support has always come with humility and respect.” Melanie Osmack, Acting Director of the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada.

A thriving Indigenous workforce has broad benefits. As IPAC president Dr. Mandy Buss said, “Programs that develop and support Indigenous Physicians not only contribute to the cultural safety of patients but also the cultural safety of our health care system.  This benefits us all." 

Championing resilience in Indigenous communities

The Indigenous Peoples’ Resilience Fund (IPRF) was launched in 2020 to enhance the resilience of Indigenous communities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their philosophy: “Indigenous communities know what Indigenous communities need.”

The IPRF's work is deeply rooted in Indigenous knowledge, sovereignty, and self-determination. Their focus on supporting community-based efforts reflects a comprehensive understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities faced by Indigenous communities and peoples. 

In 2022, the CMA Foundation joined a group of philanthropists and changemakers to provide long-term resources for IPRF to fund health and wellness initiatives grounded in traditional knowledge and lived experience. 

In announcing the collaboration, IPRF stated, “It is relationships and partnerships like this that IPRF hopes to model for Canadian philanthropy on engaging with Indigenous-led organizations.” 

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