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Northern medical students connect with Stellat’en First Nation

Visits like this ‘open up a connection’ and showcase First Nations communities as good places to live and work
A group of students in the UBC Northern Medical Program at UNBC visited Stellat’en Health Centre on April 5. (Photo by Michael Bramadat-Willcock/Omineca Express)

Students at the UBC Northern Medical Program at UNBC in Prince George visited the Stellat’en First Nation on April 5 for an introduction to life and work in the community.

Executive Director of Health Services at Carrier Sekani Family Services Travis Holyk said the project aims to give students an understanding of Indigenous health by showing them what it’s like firsthand.

After being introduced to the community, students were invited to a traditional meal with elders followed by an overview of health programs.

Stellat’en Chief Robert Michell said visits like this “opens up a connection” by showing that First Nations communities are good places to live and work.

“They need to have a better understanding of our community and our people and that we’re very open and very welcoming,” Michell said.

READ MORE: Language revitalization: Stellat’en First Nation begins virtual classes

He said there’s an issue nationally when it comes to attracting young doctors to work with First Nations partly because of misconceptions about what it’s like to live in Indigenous communities.

“As the aging doctors retire there are not a lot of new ones coming up. It takes a special person to settle down in the north,” Michell said.

“We need to bridge those gaps and make sure that we work together. That’s the only way we can move forward.”

It’s the first time they have been able to invite students to the community since the pandemic started two years ago.

Holyk said just having them drive to northern communities can be an eye-opener for students even before they get off the bus. He said they used to do the visits in January to show what it can be like for people living in those communities who need to travel for medical care.

“It gives them an understanding of the vastness of the north.”

READ MORE: First Nations, regional district in B.C. working together to restore diverted Nechako River

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