The Faculty of Health Sciences is undertaking to establish a new Indigenous Health Initiative in order to better integrate Indigenous knowledge and issues into educational and research programs within the Faculty, in concert with the ongoing work across campus.
To that end, Bernice Downey, a medical anthropologist of Oji/Cree and Celtic heritage, has been appointed as an assistant professor cross-appointed to the School of Nursing and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences to advise the leadership of the Faculty in the development of an Indigenous strategy for the Faculty of Health Sciences, beginning March 15.
She is an experienced health care leader, senior executive, facilitator, consultant, educator and researcher, with a focus on Indigenous health and well-being. It is anticipated that she will be appointed as an assistant professor of the School of Nursing with a joint appointment to the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences.
"I'm pleased that Dr. Downey will be leading the development of a strategic approach to the consideration and inclusion of Indigenous health issues into the fabric of the Faculty," said Paul O'Byrne, dean and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences.
"She will lead the development of responsive and culturally relevant academic programming at both undergraduate and graduate levels which will be informed by diverse Indigenous knowledge."
Downey is the Regional Aboriginal Cancer Lead for Cancer Care Ontario, Toronto-Central Region, and a health consultant. She recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship with the McMaster Research Office and the School of Graduate Studies, and this past year she successfully led the development of the McMaster Indigenous Research Institute. She taught at McMaster as a sessional instructor from 2010 to 2015.
Downey graduated from the University of Ottawa with her Post-RN Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in 2005. She obtained both a master's and PhD in Anthropology and Health (Medical Anthropology) from McMaster in 2009 and 2014, respectively.
Her research interests are in health, health literacy and Indigenous traditional knowledge, and health/research system reform for Indigenous populations. As well, she is a lifelong advocate of work to address the serious health inequities among Indigenous populations in Canada.
Downey has held several leadership positions, including CEO of the National Aboriginal Health Organization (2004-2006) and executive director of the Aboriginal Nurses Association of Canada (1999-2003).
Among her achievements, she has led development of a comprehensive strategic framework for increasing Aboriginal health care providers for Aboriginal populations and communities, influencing and contributing to governmental policy uptake; led numerous research initiatives related to Aboriginal health human resources policy development; and developed numerous policy briefs related to Aboriginal health, contributing to the ongoing development of health and research policy.