Dr. Peggy Hill Memorial Lecture on Indigenous Health underscores the critical role of social determinants of health

Nov 25, 2016
Author: 
Andrea Concil

A lot of students want to learn how to best combine Western, traditional and alternative medicines in a respectful, empathetic and effective manner, but sometimes we don’t know where to start, and I think this is a really good place to start.

Maddi Bell, 2T0 student

Dr. Suzanne Stewart together with Indigenous Undergraduate Medical Education Program Coordinator Dawn Maracle and Co-Leads for Indigenous Health Education Drs. Jason Pennington and Lisa RichardsonDr. Suzanne Stewart together with Indigenous Undergraduate Medical Education Program Coordinator Dawn Maracle and Co-Leads for Indigenous Health Education Drs. Jason Pennington and Lisa Richardson The Dr. Peggy Hill Memorial Lecture on Indigenous Health took place on November 24. The annual lecture aims to raise awareness about Indigenous health, and to bring together members of Toronto’s Indigenous community to learn about the outstanding work that is underway.

This year’s lecturer, Dr. Suzanne L. Stewart is Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Homelessness and Life Transitions at U of T, and a member of the Yellowknife Dene First Nation.

“We selected Suzanne Stewart this year in order to highlight a local Indigenous scholar who is doing amazing work based on Indigenous research methodologies,” said Dr. Lisa Richardson, Co-Lead, Indigenous Health Education in the MD Program.

Dr. Stewart's lecture entitled Indigenous Knowledges: Healing Aboriginal Homelessness focused on the over-representation of Indigenous Peoples in the homeless population and its significance to mental health services. “Believe it or not, housing is not the answer to homelessness,” said Dr. Stewart during the lecture. “It’s about education and employment. We need to have a more holistic approach. We need to find strengths and solutions.”

The lecture explored the results of a qualitative study in a large urban area that looked at how traditional Indigenous knowledges can help improve the mental health of Indigenous homeless clients, many of whom are youth and young families. Through the lecture, Dr. Stewart also offered guidelines for the practice of mental health and recommendations for local and national policy changes regarding Indigenous knowledges and health.

1T9 student Ali Sumner, one of many students who volunteered to support the event, reflected on the significance of the lecture on her learning, “On the whole, I think a really important takeaway for medical students is to think about how to incorporate knowledge produced from these Indigenous research partnerships into our health care institutions and social services,” she said. “It’s important to support efforts advocating for that integration.”

The lecture was presented by the Medical Alumni Association, in partnership with the Office of Indigenous Medical Education, through the endowment fund of Dr. Peggy Hill whose strong commitment to equity and advocacy was evident through her compassionate leadership as Physician in Chief of Medicine at Women's College Hospital.

“Because we recognize the critical role of social determinants for the health of our community members, we are very excited to work closely with Dr. Stewart and her team to advance our work towards health equity for Indigenous peoples.  We also wanted to have an Indigenous woman speak, something that I think Peggy Hill would have greatly supported,” said Dr. Richardson.
 

Dr. Stewart is a registered psychologist and Associate Professor in indigenous healing in Clinical and Counseling Psychology at OISE/University of Toronto, where she is Special Advisor to the Dean on Aboriginal Education and Interim Director of the Indigenous Education Initiative. She is Director Designate of the Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at U of T.

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