First Nations Health Authority and UBC announce new faculty position

On the March 17, UBC announced the creation of a new faculty position, in partnership with the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), to help improve cancer outcomes and overall wellness among First Nations and Indigenous peoples.

The new appointed research chair will work as part of the faculty of medicine, and will conduct research into improving the cancer outcomes for First Nations people.

According to an email from Davis McKenzie, director of communications for the FNHA, they will also “provide training and mentorship to faculty, students and staff, and promote provincial and national partnerships to advance First Nations and Indigenous health. Knowledge exchange will be a key function of the Chair.”

A large part of the chair’s duties will also also consist of outreach as well as spreading public awareness regarding any research findings, said Dr. Dermot Kelleher, dean of the faculty of medicine. “Public awareness is absolutely critical. If we believe that there are environmental contributors to health, we must make the public aware.”

Regarding who will fulfill the duties of the new research chair, UBC and the FNHA are yet to appoint someone to the position. “Recruitment is set to begin immediately and no candidate has been identified. Selection of the chair is not just the decision of FNHA, but of all partners,” said McKenzie.

One of the ultimate goals of this research position is to work towards transitioning research findings into concrete policies that will benefit First Nations and Indigenous peoples.

Kelleher said the intention of the position is to improve the health of First Nations communities.

“It will be up to [the chair], the faculty, the university to look very strongly to translate the [research] of this individual into policy that breeds healthcare,” said Kelleher. “Within our new medical curriculum, we have this new component in which students do individual projects and a significant number of those will be related to First Nations health. We’re hoping to use those projects to provide collective learning so our students can engage, hopefully with this chair.”

McKenzie said the position will collaborate and be in regular contact with FNHA staff.

Thus far, this new partnership between the the UBC and the FNHA has led to the creation of a new research position. However, a large part of what becomes of this initiative rests on the shoulders of the person chosen to fill the new chair.

“The direction that this project goes in will be determined by the chair who takes it on. When we appoint a chair, they generally come with a set of skills or expertise that we would like them to utilize,” said Kelleher.