3By Jessica Barudin

Over the long weekend in May, 26 Indigenous youth were welcomed to McGill University for the 10th Annual Eagle Spirit High Performance Camp. May 20th was the Health Professions Day, featuring a morning collaborative session with Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing at the Steinberg Centre for Simulation and Interactive Learning and an afternoon session with Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Communication Sciences and Disorders at Hosmer House.

The entire day was planned and developed by student volunteers and faculty members with the guidance of the Indigenous Health Professional Training (IHPT) Initiative, co-directed by physicians, Dr. Kent Saylor and Dr. Dick Menzies and coordinated by McGill MSc PT alumna, Jessica Barudin.

“Events like the Eagle Spirit High Performance Camp are so important because it provides an opportunity for Indigenous youth to not only meet Indigenous physicians and medical students but also to hear their stories about overcoming challenges in their pursuit of becoming a doctor or health care professional,” said Dr. Saylor, a Mohawk pediatrician and Director of the Indigenous Health Curriculum Program. “Sometimes just hearing someone say “you can do it” makes a difference.”

The youth listened to inspiring words from Anishinaabe second-year medical student, Wesley Coté; learned of alternative pathways to medical school from Jenn Robinson, from the Timiskaming2 First Nation and a candidate for McGill’s Medical program via the First Nation, Quebec Inuit Faculties of Medicine program. They also heard of the demands of health professional programs from second-year Métis dentistry student, Greg Gareau. Following the hands-on stations of CPR, intubation, blood drawing and spirometry techniques, the youth had an opportunity during the Q&A period to ask their burning questions to the student volunteers and health care professionals.

Respirologist and co-Director of the IHPT Initiative, Dr. Dick Menzies provided the youth with oximetry and spirometry techniques, enjoying his time with the young people: “This was a great group who learned that becoming a health professional is not only possible – but could be fun too!”.

After 10 years of implementation and welcoming over 300 Indigenous youth from across Canada, Eagle Spirit is evolving. Building from the long weekend experience at McGill, with introductory workshops hosted by the McGill First People’s House, the Indigenous Health Professional Training Initiative aims to revamp the existing camp model into a summer “Academy” program that focuses on health and science education. The upcoming program will integrate both Western and Traditional Indigenous perspectives. It is currently in the development phase, titled ‘Indigenous Science Futures’ between the Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Education and Indigenous partners from Algonquin, Cree, Inuit and Mohawk communities within the McGill RUIS.

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