Monday, May 08, 2006

Medical Students Immerse Themselves in Canadian Aboriginal First Nations Culture

More than 50 students from the Northern Ontario School of Medicine in Canada will participate in a month-long immersion program in remote Canadian Aboriginal First Nations communities. "No other medical school in North America incorporates a required cultural immersion experience into a student's learning," the NOSM says on its website. Dan Hunt, vice-dean at NOSM, said doctors who plan to work in the North must be immersed in the communities they will serve. "Both the aboriginal community and people who study cultural competency tell us to truly understand a culture, one must actually live there for a little while," he said.

Students will visit these communities which are served only by physicians who usually fly in by bush plane for a few days at a time. They will spend 10 -12 hours a week in clinical settings such as urgent care wards, after-hours clinics, youth and school programs. Interestingly enough, they will also spend up to 12 hours experiencing aboriginal feasts, hunting, fishing and other community activities. The students are also expected to keep up with their medical studies through teleconferencing sessions.

In a former career, I traveled throughout northwest Ontario and dealt with physicians who flew up to Canadian aboriginal First Nations communities. They regarded their trips as very rewarding from a career point of view. However, I was told that quite often, Canadian aboriginal patients are not very complient with medical advice and drug treatments. Perhaps this initiative by the new medical students will help this issue as they are able to build better bonds with the northern Canadian aboriginal First Nations communities.

For some culture, see Canadian Aboriginal First Nations Art at Free Spirit Gallery

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