Empowering Indigenous Representation and Advocacy in Medical Education at Queen’s Health Sciences | Faculty of Health Sciences


Jada Beck is a third-year medical student from Hay River, NT who is a key leader in building Indigenous community across Queen’s and QHS. For National Indigenous History Month, she has written this reflection on some of the initiatives she has been a part of over the past year. In the photo: Jada (left) and Justine Gould at the 2nd Annual Fundraiser for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Peoples at the School of Medicine building.

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of incorporating Indigenous perspectives and initiatives into academic institutions, particularly within the field of medicine. At Queen’s Health Sciences, I’ve been privileged to be part of several key academic initiatives spearheaded by passionate students dedicated to advancing Indigenous representation, awareness, and advocacy within our medical community.  

One significant initiative close to my heart is the “Every Child Matters” display board, which we established to honour the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30. Our display served as a catalyst for introspection, featuring thought-provoking prompts to encourage personal contemplation on truth and reconciliation. We wanted to illuminate the enduring legacies of colonization and residential schools and amplify the voices of Indigenous communities. Crucially, our goal was to foster authentic interaction between settlers and Indigenous peoples, nurturing mutual understanding and dialogue. Notably, we were privileged to have Dr. Sarah Funnell, our Associate Dean of Indigenous Health, lead a dialogue titled “Climbing the Mountain towards Reconciliation.” This conversation underscored the ongoing relevance of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, emphasizing its significance in the daily roles of health-care workers and allies to Indigenous communities. 

Additionally, I co-founded a beading group alongside my colleague Candice Martin, providing a haven for cultural reconnection amidst the demands of academic life. Supported by The Nest, QHS’ space for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Indigeneity and Accessibility initiatives, this group offered a sanctuary where students could momentarily escape academia and engage in traditional cultural practices, fostering a profound sense of community and belonging. 

Student-led initiatives have been instrumental in advancing Indigenous representation, notably the unveiling of “Our Culture is Medicine,” an Indigenous art exhibition by Jared Tait. Led by medical students Anchaleena Mandal and Olivia Head, this initiative celebrated Indigenous culture within medical practice, empowering Indigenous individuals to take up space and bringing comfort to current and future Indigenous students. 

Undoubtedly, one of our most impactful initiatives was the 2nd annual Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples (MMIP) fundraiser. Our aim was to raise awareness and support for Indigenous communities affected by systemic injustices. Through this event, we sought to honour the lives and stories behind the statistics, raising over $4,700 for the Indigenous Peoples Resilience Fund. This initiative underscored our collective responsibility to address the ongoing crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous individuals, highlighting the urgent need for systemic change. 

Moving forward, our vision encompasses a curriculum that goes beyond mere support, striving for cultural responsiveness and nurturing for future Indigenous health-care leaders. Through the integration of Indigenous perspectives and practices, QHS can equip physicians to deliver care that is both effective and culturally sensitive. As Indigenous leaders, our commitment extends to shaping a future that prioritizes Indigenous learning and safety, while actively dismantling biases and systemic barriers that hinder Indigenous peoples. By transcending the historical and current tragedies that have marginalized Indigenous communities, we aim to forge a path in the health sciences that is inclusive, equitable, and truly reflective of the diverse needs and experiences of all individuals. Ultimately, our goal is to create a space within QHS where Indigenous students not only thrive but also feel genuinely welcomed and inspired to pursue their education. We aspire for QHS and Queen’s to be recognized as a place that offers unwavering support and fosters the excellence of Indigenous students in their journeys towards becoming health-care leaders. 


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