By: Leah Carrier, BScN, RN, PhD Student – Dalhousie School of Nursing
In September 2019, I had the opportunity to attend and present at the World Indigenous Cancer Conference, which was held in Calgary, Alberta. This conference provides an opportunity for health researchers, elders, knowledge holders, and community members to gather to discuss cancer research and the implementation of Indigenous cancer strategies globally. Previously this conference was held in Australia and the next one will be in Aotearoa (New Zealand), so I am very grateful to have been able to go while it was held in a more accessible location! With the generous support of the Global Health Office and the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, I was able to attend the meeting to present a research proposal and enhance my knowledge development as an Indigenous doctoral student and registered nurse.
Globally, Indigenous peoples face a higher cancer burden that non-Indigenous peoples, which is evident even among children and youth. In workshops, we learned that Indigenous children face massive survival inequities when compared with their peers. One of the key learning points from the conference was that as health practitioners and researchers, we cannot try to make Western paradigms fit Indigenous communities and expect the same outcomes. By employing Indigenous research methods and strategies, we can find what works for Indigenous communities in terms of cancer care and implement strategies to improve outcomes. This reminded me of a talk I heard by Dr. Nadine Caron earlier this year, where she urged child health clinicians to stop trying to get Indigenous children to meet Western benchmarks for health and rather, to exceed these benchmarks by facilitating communities to define their own health pathways. There are innate strengths in our cultures and communities and health professionals and researchers can build on these strengths when designing strategies for Indigenous cancer patients and their families.
One of my favourite parts of the conference was presenting a poster with my friend and colleague Nicole Blinn, a fourth-year undergraduate Health Promotion student. We were accepted to present a poster entitled “The Experiences of Indigenous Children and Youth in the Cancer Care System: A Scoping Review Proposal”. By co-presenting at this conference, we receive feedback on our proposal from experts in the field of cancer research. The feedback we received from knowledge holders, elders, and community members will inform the design of our review project and future directions for our research in this area.
Thank you to the Johnson Scholarship Foundation and the Global Health Office for giving me the opportunity to attend this event – I am looking forward to implementing the knowledge I gleaned from this event in my research and clinical practice!
For more information on these bursary opportunities for Indigenous students please visit the Global Health Office website.