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College wants grads to be more sensitive to aboriginals

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  • Robert Schmidt
    http://www.torontosun.com/news/canada/2009/03/29/8923831-sun.html Docs new guidelines College wants grads to be more sensitive to aboriginals By CHRISTINA
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 31, 2009

      Docs' new guidelines
      College wants grads to be more sensitive to aboriginals


      Last Updated: 29th March 2009, 3:45am

      OTTAWA -- The organization that sets national standards for medical
      specialists and surgeons wants all graduating physicians to become
      "culturally sensitive" to aboriginal patients, whose attitudes toward
      medicine can differ profoundly from mainstream Canada.

      The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada recently unveiled
      new education "modules" for medical residents in obstetrics, gynecology,
      psychiatry and family medicine. They introduce doctor trainees to the
      basics of indigenous culture.

      "Many First Nations, Inuit and Metis people have had negative experiences
      with the mainstream health-care system, often because of cultural
      differences between the patient or client and the health-care provider,"
      says the curriculum briefing book.

      For instance, many aboriginals live in remote communities and can't easily
      travel to medical appointments in cities, said Margaret Kennedy, an
      official with the Royal College.


      Doctors need to develop different treatment plans for these clients. Or,
      they might need to understand that aboriginal culture often means talking
      not just to the patient but to the entire family.

      There are also psychological and spiritual differences, she said.

      "Part of our current aboriginal culture has to do with the residential
      schools and the impact that has had on seniors and their family members,"
      Kennedy said. "What kind of effect does that make when they meet a
      (non-aboriginal) physician?"

      The Royal College and the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada
      (IPAC) developed the guidelines with federal funding. The goal is to
      integrate "culturally safe" practices for aboriginals into all 61
      specialties offered at Canada's 17 medical schools.

      "Over the next 10 years, the hope would be that every resident would have
      some kind of exposure" to aboriginal culture, Kennedy said.


      "As indigenous people, we are holistic in nature, so (health) affects the
      emotional, the spiritual, the physical," said IPAC executive director
      Kandice Leonard. For example, popping a pill without praying over it
      wouldn't address some aboriginal spiritual needs, she said.

      Most of Canada's medical faculties now have at least some undergraduate
      curriculum on aboriginal health. Several also reserve places in
      undergraduate programs for qualified aboriginal students.

      Lana Potts, a graduating med student at the Northern Ontario School of
      Medicine, said over time more cultural awareness will help in tackling the
      high rates of disease that plague First Nations communities.

      "(Doctors) need a knowledge base. It's not just that indigenous people are
      less healthy -- there are factors that affect their lives, put them in
      situations where they're more disadvantaged."

      Potts said when she receives her MD in May, "about 30" family members from
      her southern Alberta aboriginal community will travel to Ontario to



      How traditional aboriginal culture and mainstream western culture differ:


      - Community is foremost value

      - Knowledge is transmitted orally

      - The world is understood mythically

      - Goals are met with patience

      - Eye contact is thought overly assertive

      - A handshake is soft, signalling no threat

      - A faith in harmony with nature


      - Individualism is foremost value

      - Tradition of printing and literacy

      - The world is understood scientifically

      - Goals are met with aggressive effort

      - Eye contact is part of conversation

      - A handshake is firm, assertive

      - A faith in scientific control of nature

      Source: Aboriginal Human Resources Council
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