The Office of Indigenous Health: A growing team, a growing commitment

In June 2022, the Royal College introduced the Office of Indigenous Health. This Office was created to advance the Royal College’s commitment to Reconciliation and build its capacity through the integration of Indigenous Ways of Knowing, Being and Doing.

Over a year later, we are thrilled to share some of the incredible work this Office is leading.

Building Indigenous health foundations

A new postgraduate medical education (PGME) curriculum has been developed to address the gaps in knowledge of Indigenous history and an understanding of the critical historical events that have contributed to the high prevalence of trauma in Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

With a focus on what culturally safe care and humility looks like in practice, the curriculum gives participants, as physicians, the opportunity to understand their role in supporting the Indigenous patient’s right to self-determination in guiding their own health journey, and the physician’s helping role as a health ally in this journey.

This new curriculum will be released on September 28, 2023, and will be presented in-person at the upcoming International Conference on Residency Education (ICRE) held in Halifax, October 19-21, 2023. Following this, the curriculum will be presented for pilot testing and emergent evaluation phases by the Office with a group at the University of Toronto.

Growing team

The Office recently welcomed Karhinéhtha’/ Cortney Clark, member of Wahta Mohawks, as the program manager. Ms. Clark brings an integrated portfolio of experience as an Indigenous health researcher and consultant. She serves as an associate chair for the National Consortium for Indigenous Medical Education and is a doctor of science candidate in rehabilitation and health leadership at Queen’s University.

Joel Voth, MD, CCFP (AM), also joined the office to lead the Curriculum Expert Working Group. Dr. Voth has a background in Family Medicine and has also completed a fellowship in addiction medicine. Dr. Voth is a proud member of the Métis Nation of Manitoba and LGBTQ+ community and comes to medicine with a commitment to reduce health disparities for populations that are denied opportunities to meaningfully participate in the health system. He currently provides care for patients who use substances in both in-patient and out-patient settings through Michael Garron Hospital and the Inner City Health Associates (ICHA) in Toronto.

Members of the Office of Indigenous Health, from left: Dr. Rebekah Eatmon, Dr. Joel Voth, Director Sherry Sandy, Dr. Ryan Giroux and Program Manager Cortney Clark.

Our journey towards Reconciliation

In 2016, the Royal College Council adopted the Indigenous Health Committee’s (IHC) recommendation to make Indigenous health a mandatory component in PGME.

With Indigenous health as a priority, two Indigenous-led health committees guided a number of key initiatives at the Royal College, the IHC and the Indigenous Health in Specialty Postgraduate Medical Education Committee (the latter dissolved in 2021 and expert working groups now report to the IHC). Co-chaired by Lisa Richardson, MD, FRCPC, and Kona Williams, MD, FRCPC, the IHC is responsible for guiding all policies, projects and advocacy at the Royal College.

In addition to establishing the IHC’s vision statement, as well as a values and principles statement on Indigenous health, in 2019, the Royal College published several resources to support the advancement of Indigenous health, including, Wise practices for health care leadersCanMEDS – Family Medicine Indigenous Health Supplement and the Indigenous Health Primer.

In 2021, the National Consortium for Indigenous Medical Education (NCIME) was created. The NCIME has established six Working Groups focused on making improvements in priority action areas with partners such as the Royal College. During this year, the Royal College created the Office of Indigenous Health (introduced in 2022) and published the Indigenous Health in Specialty PGME Education Guide. Further, a curriculum was established for the Office.

The following year, the Royal College contributed to the development of resources and toolkits with the NCIME: Advancing Indigenous medical education and leadership in health care.

In 2023, our focus has been on establishing a business case and governance model for the Office, as well as reaffirming the Indigenous Health Committee’s vision to:

“Create health care that is free of racism where every Indigenous person is treated with respect, recognized as an individual rather than a stereotype, experiences the highest level of health and that all stakeholders understand how colonial structures and systems link to current health inequities.”

Learn more about the Office of Indigenous Health and access tools and resources on Indigenous health to support your practice.