MOOSE FACTORY, Ont. – February 28, 2023 — The Weeneebayko Area Health Authority (WAHA), Queen’s University, and the Mastercard Foundation are partnering to transform healthcare in Northeastern Ontario and to expand education and employment opportunities for Indigenous youth by creating the Queen’s Weeneebayko Health Education Program.
WAHA and Queen’s Health Sciences will co-develop a university curriculum for health professions training in the western James Bay region. The program will prepare Indigenous students for careers in medicine, nursing, midwifery, and other health professions through culturally-informed education. Programming and resources will also be created to enable local youth to envision, pursue, and succeed in health professions training right from high school.
“This is a very important initiative for the Weeneebayko Region that will help increase the capacity for culturally-safe healthcare that is directed and delivered by health professionals from our communities,” says Lynne Innes, President and Chief Executive Officer, Weeneebayko Area Health Authority. “It is exciting to work together on this new approach that will support Indigenous youth as they pursue healthcare careers and build a stronger, healthier future for the communities we serve.”
The initiative aims to address healthcare challenges facing remote, Indigenous communities, including low accessibility to providers and facilities, the need for cultural safety, health outcome gaps, and underrepresentation of Indigenous peoples amongst health professionals.
“This project builds on a long-standing relationship between Queen’s, the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority, and the communities of the James Bay region,” says the Honourable Murray Sinclair, Queen’s Chancellor. “It offers hope for Reconciliation through new approaches to educating and supporting Indigenous youth in pursuing careers in healthcare. I believe this can help deliver the transformation needed in Indigenous healthcare in Canada.”
The vision is to establish a new training site in Moosonee that will serve coastal community sites. The training programs will help build comprehensive, sustainable, community-centred healthcare—improving patient outcomes and addressing gaps in delivery. Training within Indigenous communities will bolster workforce retention and graduate professionals capable of providing culturally appropriate care.
The Mastercard Foundation is involved in this partnership through its EleV Program, which aims to support 100,000 Indigenous young people on their pathways through education and onto meaningful livelihoods by 2030. The Mastercard Foundation committed more than $31 million to support this partnership.
“The Foundation is making a commitment to support sustainable, systemic change in healthcare education and delivery as led by First Nations youth, communities and leadership in the region,” says Jennifer Brennan, Director of Canada Programs at the Mastercard Foundation.
“WAHA’s deep partnership with Queen’s University, and their shared experience and expertise, holds potential for real transformation in the region and beyond. Our aim is to get behind innovative approaches that create meaningful opportunities for First Nations youth based on their cultures, values, and aspirations.”
The health professions training program builds upon a nearly six-decade relationship between Queen’s and Weeneebayko Area health facilities anchored in training, frontline care, and research. Enrollment could start as early as September 2025, with an ultimate enrollment of 240 students per year, across the health professions.
The curricula will be co-created by WAHA and Queen’s, with guidance from community members. Key aspects include:
The partnership will also establish a Health Career Pathways Program to provide career counselling, resources, mentorship, and application support, as well as build access to prerequisite courses to support applications in health sciences. As part of the program’s soft launch, high school students from WAHA communities took part in a week-long, immersive health sciences camp at Queen’s in August 2022.
“This program will support Indigenous health transformation – improving regional health outcomes, addressing gaps in care delivery, and building the Indigenous health workforce,” says Jane Philpott, Dean, Queen’s Health Sciences. “We look forward to building this dynamic educational model alongside the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority and local Indigenous leaders, and we thank the Mastercard Foundation for supporting this crucial work.”
Associate Director, Communications
Queen’s Health Sciences
About Weeneebayko Area Health Authority
Weeneebayko Area Health Authority (WAHA) is the leading healthcare provider in the James Bay and Hudson Bay region serving a population of approximately 12,000 people. Comprised of hospitals in Moose Factory, Fort Albany and Attawapiskat, and a health centre in Moosonee, along with paramedic and outpatient care services in Peawanuck and Kashechewan. WAHA is a regional, community-focused organization, committed to providing optimum health care as close to home as possible.
About the Mastercard Foundation
The Mastercard Foundation works with visionary organizations to enable young people in Africa and in Indigenous communities in Canada to access dignified and fulfilling work. It is one of the largest private foundations in the world with a mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. It was established in 2006 through the generosity of Mastercard when it became a public company. The Foundation is an independent organization, and its policies, operations, and program decisions are determined by its own Board of Directors and senior leadership team. It is a registered Canadian charity with offices in Toronto, Kigali, Accra, Nairobi, Kampala, Lagos, Dakar, and Addis Ababa.
For more information on the Foundation, please visit: www.mastercardfdn.org.
About Queen’s University
Queen’s University has a long history of scholarship, discovery, and innovation that has shaped our collective knowledge and helped address some of the world’s most pressing concerns. Home to more than 25,000 students, the university offers a comprehensive research-intensive environment with prominent strengths in physics, cancer research, geoengineering, data analytics, surveillance studies, art conservation, and mental health research. Welcoming and supporting students from all countries and backgrounds to a vibrant, safe, and supportive community is an important part of the Queen’s experience. Diverse perspectives and a wealth of experience enrich our campus and our community. A core part of our mission is to engage our students, staff, and faculty in international learning and research, both at home and abroad.
Queen’s University has ranked in the top 10 globally in the 2021 and 2022 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings. The rankings measured over 1,500 post-secondary institutions on their work to advance the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Weeneebayko Area Health Authority