Profound Learning Experiences from Remote First Nations Communities
Tune in to part 2 of my interview by Christina D. Warner, as part of her interview series with leaders in healthcare. The article was originally published in Thrive Global on May 30, 2019.
“Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?”
The experiences that I have had speaking and consulting in remote First Nations communities in northern Canada have profoundly impacted my clinical practice in so many ways.
One stands out to me in particular. Just prior to my arrival, four men had gone missing during a fishing trip. I became an observer to the community’s efforts to support the families whose loved ones had gone missing and were ultimately either found dead or never recovered.
The entire community literally shut down as everyone’s focus turned to support those who were affected by this tragedy. I have a very poignant memory of sitting in the healthcare clinic, where there were huge lists all over the walls. One list enumerated various ideas of how to help the families. Another outlined the names of all those affected by the tragedy — someone had been specifically assigned to be responsible for checking in regularly on each individual.
This was in stark contrast to my experience within the healthcare system when my own mother and uncle had been killed in a car accident, several years prior. When I mentioned the accident during a healthcare appointment for my son just several days after it occurred, no one even acknowledged my pain. I left feeling deeply hurt and misunderstood.
The community in which the men went missing had a deep understanding of the interdependence between physical and mental well-being. This is an area where our Western medical system is still lagging behind. Their holistic vision leads to the development of the types of services that are needed to support individuals through challenging moments in their life, even in the absence of an immediate medical need. They understand that, in order for individuals to be well, families must be well.
The lessons I have learned from working with First Nations communities have significantly affected my view on how healthcare services should be provided to both provide optimal benefit and to minimize long-term costs.
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