Queen’s implemented a new health education program in James Bay

Queen’s University plans to implement a new health education program in the James Bay area to increase the number of Indigenous health care professions.

On 28 February, the University announced a partnership with the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority (WAHA) and the Mastercard Foundation to collaborate on providing healthcare programs focused on creating opportunities for Indigenous peoples.

The partnership between the University and WAHA has existed since 1965 and will serve seven different indigenous communities.

“This is a very exciting partnership that we announced yesterday,” said Jane Philpott, dean of the School of Health Sciences in an interview with Journal.

We’ve been working on it for several years. Everything is finally formalized now, so we can announce it.”

In the past, Queen’s has had back and forth partnerships with WAHA, according to Philpott. Specialists and patients move between Kingston and the region.

“We have the opportunity to develop the partnership and make it more educational, so it’s not just sending doctors from here [to] up there, we will really support the training of doctors and nurses and PLs and PTs in the community,” he said.

The involvement of the Mastercard Foundation stems from their role as an international charity working to support efforts to advance youth education, according to Philpott.

“Representatives from the Mastercard Foundation contacted me several years ago and asked what we could do to help train Indigenous youth […] They are very impressed with the partnership with WAHA.”

The aim of this initiative is to be a degree awarding program where content will be delivered within the community. A combination of local faculty and remote instruction from Queen’s main campus will be used to award Queen degrees to Moosonee-based students.

Philpott said this model would take a decolonization approach in which Indigenous cultural values ​​would be integrated through an interprofessional curriculum.

There will be a focus on mentoring to promote long-term graduate retention within the community. Culturally safe care will be at the heart of this new curriculum.

Philpott said the concept had become more common across the health care sector, but it was important to encourage training in understanding how to provide care for diverse backgrounds in society.

“We train all of our healthcare professionals to provide culturally safe care, because very often, healthcare professionals or healthcare providers have a culture that is different from patient culture. […] what it’s meant to do is make sure there are more First Nations Health professionals to serve those communities at all times [patients] go to the hospital, they will see people who know their culture and language,” said Philpott.

With creation of the new program expected to take place as early as September 2025, there is an anticipated initial enrollment of 240 students per year across the degree plan.

Philpott discussed expansions in the faculty, including “modest expansions” in Queen’s Medical School and Nursing programs.

“We anticipate more expansions in nursing, and we will also request more expansions in medicine, in order to accommodate additional seats for the community,” he said.

“There is a real shortage of healthcare workers. This will go a long way in meeting those needs.”

An Indigenous-based health education program will be the first in Canada where the full delivery of an undergraduate degree will be awarded directly within Indigenous communities. Philpott hopes this successful partnership can serve as a demonstration to spark other programs to decolonize education.

“I think we will learn things that we can adapt from the curriculum there. We might be able to incorporate those ideas into our curriculum here—they’d be Indigenous and informed,” said Philpott.

“There will be faculty enrichment when the faculty starts working in the community. The sky is the limit for where this will go.

With files from Asbah Ahmad