The University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine has announced the new department of Indigenous Health and Wellness, which is the first of its kind in the country. The new department will be Indigenous-led and ensure the research done is in favour of Indigenous community needs.

Dr. Janet Tootoosis, the Interim Vice Dean of Indigenous Health, started in her role in June 2022 with the task of establishing a new administrative home for Indigenous health in the college.

“The goal of this Indigenous-led department is to address existing health inequalities, the scarcity of strength based Indigenous health research, knowledge translation in community, and address systemic racism in the health system and health education system,” explained Tootoosis.

Creating this department wasn’t a fast process, in fact it took about 15 years for the department to receive approval. University Council formally approved the department in April of this year, a celebration and formal launch was held in September.

“We are actively hiring for Indigenous leaders in the department, we have strong candidates and we’re very optimistic that we will have a team that will lead the design along with community,” said Tootoosis.

Tootoosis and her team are currently in the stage of staffing for the department and building its capacity in collaboration, mentorship, and networking. The department will serve as a welcoming space for Indigenous health researchers, learners, and faculty in the college.

The department will also build capacity for the college to effectively respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action. The work of the department will also influence how medical education and scholarship incorporates Indigenous knowledge and systems.