The Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) was well represented at this year’s McGill Alumni Association (MAA) Honour & Awards Celebration, which celebrates the work of students, faculty and staff, as well as of alumni and friends, who have made a significant impact on the University and community at large.


Sidney Leggett, who is Métis, an MSc student in the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health at the School of Population and Global Health and a McCall MacBain Scholar, won the Chancellor Gretta Chambers Student Leadership Award for co-creating a course that offers graduate students at the School a wide-ranging introduction to Indigenous health.


Prior to the ceremony, which was held on May 7, 2024, at Le 9e, the recently restored Art Deco restaurant in the old Eaton’s department store, FMHS Focus caught up with Leggett.


Charting a new course

Sidney Leggett co-created with Josh Swain (MSc’23) and Vivian Qiang, along with faculty members from the FMHS, the course “Indigenous World Views in Health Delivery and Research,” which uses the prism of colonialism to better understand present-day Indigenous health.


Leggett calls it a crash course in relationship building with the Indigenous community. It’s hoped that offering more Indigenous-led classes will foster more inclusivity in the health professions and attract more Indigenous students to fields such as epidemiology and public health.


Her goal is to increase future policymakers’ awareness of Indigenous health care. Leggett expects that most alumni working in Canadian public health policy will eventually cross paths with the topic.


“If you don’t have an understanding of what Indigenous people of Canada went through with colonization and where the research climate is today, you’re going to make uninformed policy decisions left and right.”


She says the course, which she co-taught, also incorporates the research concept that sees communities as being fully capable of identifying their health priorities.


That’s something she will be putting into practice this summer as she returns to her native Winnipeg to work at the First Nations Health & Social Secretariat of Manitoba. While there, she will complete her master’s research, which concerns the opioid epidemic during the COVID-19 pandemic in First Nations communities in Manitoba.


 “I will be meeting with knowledge keepers to get a deeper understanding of what was happening in those times.” She hopes her research can help leaders in future crisis planning.


Leggett found her stride after switching from engineering at the University of Victoria to computer science at the University of Winnipeg. Her newfound talent for data and design helped revitalize the website at Turtle Lodge, run by the Sagkeeng First Nation, located 120 km north of Winnipeg. She also built what she called a story-catching site, sharing stories of Indigenous youth.


Leggett cites both her parents, Shannon and Sean, for the encouragement and examples that have led her to where she is now.


Her father is the director of mental health and addictions treatment and recovery for the Government of Manitoba. “His whole career path ended up following an advocacy route, doing addictions counselling and moving through the mental health and addictions world in government.” Her mother, she says, helped her stay authentic. “She passed on the importance of family and how to incorporate good values into the work I do. And to not take it too seriously.” 


A version of this article appeared in the May 27 edition of FMHS Focus. 



Students take lead in developing Indigenous Health course