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Understanding racist legacy

The University of British Columbia is on a mission to train future doctors, dentists and other health-care providers to treat Indigenous patients by learning about the pain inflicted by past Canadian policies.

First-year students in midwifery, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physical therapy, genetic counselling, social work, dental hygiene and dietetics are required to take an online course and two workshops to help them better serve Aboriginal people. In 2018, students in audiology and speech and language pathology will also participate.

Jason Min, who teaches in the university's faculty of pharmaceutical sciences and has worked with the Lil'wat Nation, facilitated a workshop Thursday for students in various programs.

"I think I graduated feeling confident in my knowledge of medications and how they worked. I didn't know that was not enough to provide good care," he said.

He said training health-care students in their first year to reflect on stereotypes and Canada's colonial legacy will allow them to become better clinicians and see every patient as an individual.

First-year medical student Dakota Peacock said health-care professionals have a lot to learn about "cultural humility" involving Indigenous populations subjected to systemic racism that caused them to distrust those treating them.

"Having the humility that we don't know everything about this person in front of us means we cannot make assumptions and we should not be stereotyping them," said Peacock, who aims to become a neurologist.

One professor's story has stuck with him, and it's about an Indigenous man who arrived at an emergency room with slurred speech and "disorderly" movements. Staff assumed he was drunk and didn't treat him. He died of a brain injury.

"I'm hoping to learn what we as health-care professionals can do to mend the divide between medical professionals and Indigenous Peoples, a divide that has been created as a result of the residential school system," said Peacock.



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