Queen’s University plans to implement a new health education program in the James Bay region to increase the number of Indigenous health care professions.
on Feb. 28, the University announced a partnership with the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority (WAHA) and Mastercard Foundation to collaborate on providing a health care program focused on creating opportunities for Indigenous communities.
The partnership between the University and WAHA has existed since 1965 and will serve seven different Indigenous communities.
“This is a very exciting partnership we announced yesterday,” Jane Philpott, dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences said in an interview with TheJournals.
We’ve been working on it for a couple of years. It’s all finally formalized now, so we were able to announce it.”
In the past, Queen’s has had a back-and-forth partnership with WAHA, according to Philpott. Specialists and patients move between Kingston and the region.
“We had this opportunity to grow the partnership and make it more educational, so that instead of just sending doctors from here [to] up-there, we would actually support the training of doctors and nurses and OTs and PTs in the community,” she said.
The involvement from the Mastercard Foundation comes from their role as an international charity which works to support ventures furthering the education of young people, according to Philpott.
“The representatives from Mastercard Foundation reached out to me a couple of years ago and asked what we could do to help with training of Indigenous youth […] They were really impressed with the partnership with WAHA.”
The goal of this initiative is to be a degree-granting program where content will be delivered within the community. It’s anticipated that a combination of local faculty and remote instruction from Queen’s main campus will be used to deliver Queen’s degrees to students based in Moosonee.
Philpott said this model would take a decolonized approach where Indigenous cultural values would be integrated through an interprofessional curriculum.
There will be a focus on mentorship to promote long-term graduate retention within the communities. Culturally safe care will be the center of this new curriculum.
Philpott said this concept has become more prevalent throughout the health care sector, but it’s important to encourage training in understanding how to deliver care to diverse community backgrounds.
“We train all of our health professionals to deliver culturally safe care, because very often, the health care professional or health provider is of a different culture than the patient. […] what this is intended to do is to make sure there are more First Nations Health professionals to serve those communities so when [patients] go to the hospital, they’ll see people who know their culture and language,” Philpott said.
With the creation of this new program expected to take place as early as September 2025, there is an anticipation of an initial enrollment of 240 students per year across the degree plans.
Philpott discussed expansions at the faculty, including “modest expansions” at the Queen’s Medical School and Nursing program.
“We’re anticipating even more expansion in nursing, and we’re going to be asking for more expansion in medicine as well, to be able to use extra seats for those communities,” she said.
“There’s a real shortage of health workers. This will really help meet those needs.”
An Indigenous-based health education program will be first of its kind in Canada where full delivery of a university degree will be given directly within an Indigenous community. Philpott is hopeful that the successful partnership will be able to act as a demonstration to spark other programs to decolonize education.
“I think we’re going to learn things that we’ll be able to adapt from the curriculum there. We might be able to then bring those ideas into our curriculum here—they’re going to be Indigenous and informed,” Philpott said.
“There will be faculty enrichment as faculty start working in those communities. The sky’s the limit on where this will go.”
—With files from Asbah Ahmad