Meaningful stories written by members that demonstrate how IPAC was able to make a change with the support of our community.
Stepping Into My Role
A humble beginning with the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada
My first connection with IPAC was as a medical student member, and I was part of “Our Stories: How we Became Doctors”, an IPAC publication on role models in medicine in 2012. IPAC has always represented something exciting to me – community and mentorship. I was fortunate that several of my mentors served on the IPAC board over the years, and they kept drawing me in to the inspiring work that the organization is involved in. At the 2016 IPAC Gathering in Vancouver, when I was just two years out of residency, Dr. Evan Adams nominated me to run for the board as a physician director, a call that both moved me and terrified me. I suffered from a degree of imposter syndrome at that time, struggling with internal doubts and questions about myself. Was I ready for this? Was I experienced enough? Was I knowledgeable enough? Was I Native enough? I (very respectfully but somewhat sheepishly) declined Evan’s nomination at the election, but pledged to run at some point in the future.
That same summer, I helped establish and now serve as medical director for Lu’ma Medical Centre, an Indigenous primary care clinic located in unceded Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh territory (Vancouver). Our centre integrates traditional Indigenous and Western medical approaches in a team-based practice model including Elders, traditional healers, counselors, social workers, nurses and physicians. The opportunity to bring Lu’ma Medical to life was literally a dream realized for me. I’m gratified to see our centre making a difference in the lives of our patients and their families, and also influencing healthcare system change on a regional and provincial level. We have a large teaching role as one of the home sites for the Indigenous Family Medicine residency program at UBC.
A few years later, I happened to bump into Dr. Nel Wieman and Melanie Osmack at the ferry line-up from Vancouver to Victoria, on our way to a conference. We shared the ferry ride over, lost ourselves in conversation and laughter, and I knew that it was time to get more involved with IPAC. Soon after that conference, Melanie invited me to join the new Champions Committee, focused on lifting up and celebrating our Indigenous physician colleagues through award nominations and recognitions of achievement. The work on this committee has been exhilarating and deeply rewarding – winning an award yourself is one thing, but shining a light on someone you admire and helping them win an award is entirely more gratifying. I believe we collectively benefit from seeing our fellow Indigenous doctors recognized for their achievements – celebrating one of us is truly celebrating all of us – it raises the floor that we all stand on.
Last summer, I received the call to run for the IPAC board in the 2021 elections. Evan again put my name forward – giving me the opportunity to make good on my earlier promise. I felt deeply humbled by that validation – that recognition from someone I look up to that I was ready for this work. My Elders have taught me to listen when we are called upon to do something, especially in service of others – in that sense, I had to say yes this time. I also felt that this was the right time to step up; I felt a stronger confidence in my identity, a more keen awareness of my strengths and weaknesses, and a readiness to take on this leadership role.
To those who are considering a run for one of the committees or a position on the board, I highly recommend it. My first six months on the IPAC Board have been challenging, stimulating and very enjoyable. We’ve been hard at work preparing for PRIDoC, responding to the concurrent public health emergencies of the COVID-19 pandemic and toxic drug crisis, challenging anti-Indigenous racism, and building the new IPAC mentorship program. This is “eagle-eyed” work – it takes a zoomed-out, big-picture type of perspective, which contrasts nicely to the more “mouse-eyed” detail-oriented work I do in my clinical role as a family doctor. What I enjoy most about IPAC is the community – getting to work side by side with personal mentors, friends and colleagues whom I deeply respect and admire. I feel empowered by this group of change-makers, and very humbled and inspired to be counted among them.
Written by Dr. Michael Dumont, March 16, 2022