Meet the Ojibwa surgeon who won our Indigenous Health Award for 2016

Andrew Padmos
June 21, 2016 | Author: Andrew Padmos

Dear colleagues,

The Royal College Dr. Thomas Dignan Indigenous Health Award is among our newest awards. It was established in 2014 in honour of Dr. Dignan, O.Ont.,BScN, and his tireless advocacy to eradicate disparities in the care of Canada’s Indigenous peoples, as well as their access to equitable medical services.

I first met Tom when I was a first-year medical student at McMaster. He lived next door to a good friend and classmate and I later developed a friendship with him, as well. I greatly valued our conversations, which I later learned had some influence on his decision to pursue a career in medicine. I have followed his accomplishments with great interest over the years. This national award honours physicians who mirror Dr. Dignan’s zeal, devotion and dogged pursuit of justice for Canada’s Indigenous population.

Announcing our 2016 winner: Dr. Nadine Caron, MPH, FRCSC

Dr. Nadine Caron, MPH, FRCSC

Dr. Nadine Caron, MPH, FRCSC

  • General and endocrine surgeon
  • Associate professor, Department of Surgery, Faculty of Medicine (Northern Medical Program), University of British Columbia
  • Co-director and co-creator, UBC Centre for Excellence in Indigenous Health
  • Associate faculty member, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University

Nadine is Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation. She provides surgical oncology care in Prince George, B.C., and is an associate professor at the UBC Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Surgery (Northern Medical Program). After graduating from UBC’s medical school, she completed postgraduate fellowship training in endocrine surgical oncology and earned a master’s degree in public health. Read Dr. Caron’s full biography on our website…

Dr. Caron is a surgeon, teacher and incredible example to her colleagues, the Indigenous community and to Indigenous women, in particular. There were many strong letters of nomination written on behalf of Dr. Caron.

A member of our communications team recently interviewed her and I think these examples from that transcript are worth sharing in full. While her accomplishments speak for themselves, these examples illustrate in her own words her passion for her work.

On her distinction as a graduate from UBC’s School of Medicine

“I’m often asked what it feels like to be the first female First Nations graduate from UBC School of Medicine and that means a lot; I was the first, not because I was special, but because of where we are in society in Canada. I think it’s made a lot of people reflect on the fact that we need to focus on increasing the numbers — not only of First Nations females, First Nations physicians, First Nations surgeons — but also just the representation of Indigenous Peoples in Canada’s health care professions across the board.”

On what inspires her passion to improve the public health system

“To use an analogy, as a surgeon you’re sometimes the person pulling someone else out of the river who’s drowning, and you might save that person and that’s great, but eventually someone has to go upstream to figure out why everyone’s falling in. So I realized that if I could step out of that clinical spectrum and divide my time into other areas in public health, and in mentoring and teaching, that I could start to understand a bit more about why — why we’re falling in as a society — and start to fill those gaps.”

On her top advice for Indigenous youth

“When I’m asked what advice I would give to an Indigenous youth right now in Canada, there’s much, but…above and beyond any other would be just believe in yourself. Don’t let what other people say sway you from your beliefs, sway you from your dreams, sway you from what you want to do. There are enough people in the world who will tell you that it’s going to be too hard, that you won’t be able to make it. Don’t ever let your voice be one of those who you hear saying that.”

I’m proud that, through our Indigenous Health Advisory Committee, the Royal College is helping to energize the Indigenous health portfolio. One example is the historic meeting we hosted last November to discuss the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Calls to Action. The Royal College has partnered with others in the Indigenous Health Alliance. Together, we will propel action on the health-related recommendations. Our Indigenous health committee is now discussing objectives and deliverables related to this work. I hope to share more news soon.

Our health system is lucky to have Dr. Caron and others like her who work to break stereotypes, increase awareness and improve systems of care. We are proud to recognize her with this award.


Andrew Padmos, BA, MD, FRCPC, FACP
Chief Executive Officer

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Avatar Felix Durity, MD, FRCSC, OBC | June 27, 2016
Please post my comment which I previously entered. Dr. Caron is an amazing example of dedication and commitment to make this a better country overall, especially in the area of Indigenous Health Care.
Avatar Felix Durity | June 27, 2016
As someone who saw Dr. Caron come along as a medical student and then as a surgeon, it has been awe-inspiring to follow her career. As the Gold Medalist in her graduating class, Nadine could pretty much have chosen any career path and be successful. She chose to "lay down her bucket" with her people. How wonderful. Her people, the province and the country are lucky to have her among us! Hooray for Dr. Caron. Felix Durity, MD, FRCSC, OBC, Hon. Doctorate
Avatar Randy Friesen, MD, FRCSC | June 23, 2016
Nadine, I am proud to know you and to know your passion for those less privileged in Canada. Your efforts for First Nations people as well as for others with health care access issues make me proud to be a physician and a Canadian. I hope there will continue to be real support for you and your colleagues at the Centre, and that I can be a small part of that team.
Avatar Kumudini Deshpande, retired fellow anaestetist | June 22, 2016
Hearty congratulations to Nadine on her achievement.A great model for her community.
Avatar Dr Allan Jeffrey Hunt | June 21, 2016
My experiencing working as a general and forensic pathologist in Canada together with an interest in public health, nurtured by mentorship from one of the giants in the field of public health in the Western Hemisphere, Prof Ken Standard, have instilled in me a genuine desire and commitment to help improve the health of First Nations. It is indeed gratifying to see the creation of medical leaders of such eloquence, dedication and brilliance who will be in a position to serve as role models, mentors, advocates, and physicians to further improve the status of health for their people. Thanks go to the RCPSC for keeping hope alive.
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