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MOU signed with Miawpukek First Nation

By Sharon Gray | July 29, 2014

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed July 5 between the Miawpukek First Nation and Memorial’s Faculty of Medicine, signifying the desire for future collaboration in capacity building by providing opportunities for eligible members of Miawpukek to pursue a career in medicine. 

Chief Mi'sel Joe and Dr. James Rourke
Dr. James Rourke, dean, Faculty of Medicine and Chief Mi’sel Joe signed the MOU during a short ceremony in Conne River, N.L.

“It was most touching when Chief Mi’sel Joe commented that in 1985 he set out to try to improve education opportunities for their Aboriginal people,” said Dr. Rourke. “And now there is a member of his own band in medical school.”

John Jeddore, who recently finished his first year of medical studies at Memorial, is a member of Miawpukek First Nation. He attended the MOU signing.

Dr. Carolyn Sturge Sparkes, co-ordinator of the Faculty of Medicine’s Aboriginal Health Initiative (AHI), said this formal agreement will add another dimension to the relationship between the Faculty of Medicine and the Miawpukek First Nation.

“During a recent meeting of the board of the AHI, interest was expressed from other communities to establish an MOU with us and we will be working on this in the fall.”

Also present at the signing was Loni Slade, an Aboriginal medical student from the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band in Western Newfoundland.

Under the Aboriginal Admissions Program, three seats per year are reserved for Aboriginal students. There are now 13 students of Aboriginal ancestry in medical school at Memorial.

The memorandum of understanding between the medical school and the Miawpukek First Nation is effective for five years.

“This MOU recognizes Memorial University’s special obligation to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and the importance of engaging and partnering with our communities to achieve common goals,” said Dr. Rourke.

The community of Miawpukek serves 847 on-reserve and 2,011 off-reserve members. The MOU formalizes the partnership between the Faculty of Medicine and the Miawpukek First Nation in setting up the conditions that will support Miawpukek community members to successfully complete their studies towards the degree of doctor of medicine. The terms include providing representation from the Miawpukek community to sit on any steering committees at the Faculty of Medicine related to the recruitment of potential medical candidates from the community, providing representation on either the admissions committee and/or the admission interview panels, and providing resources from the community for learning experiences for all medical students in areas such as traditional medicine and culture.

Among other activities, under the MOU the Faculty of Medicine agrees to reserve three seats in the undergraduate medical education program for Aboriginal students, to provide a program such as the Aboriginal Health Initiative to support prospective candidates in preparing their application for admission to medical school, to seek the participation and advice from the Miawpukek community in the operation of support programs, to solicit and support current medical students to serve as mentors to prospective candidates and to create an environment that is welcoming to medical students from Aboriginal communities.