Partnership with Queen’s University Family Medicine builds mandatory cultural safety into curriculum

September 13, 2018

Online Aboriginal Relationship Cultural Competency Courses have become a mandatory part of the Queen’s Family Medicine residency program

A new partnership between the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario (CCSEO) and Queen’s University is helping to educate the doctors of tomorrow on the role they play in helping to create culturally safe spaces in healthcare.

In this new partnership, Aboriginal Relationship Cultural Competency Courses developed by Cancer Care Ontario have become a mandatory component of the Queen’s Family Medicine residency program.  This decision builds on work that Queen’s has already put in place to help educate residents on the importance of creating culturally safe spaces in health care.

“The online courses are a next step for us as a department to further improve our approach to Indigenous health education and ensure that our graduates are offering safe and culturally appropriate care to all patients,” says Dr. Eva Purkey, Director of Global Health at Queen’s University. “We are excited to be working with staff at the Cancer Centre to further build on the knowledge and training we can provide residents.”

The content of these online courses will cover the history of colonization and its impact on Indigenous health as well as how care practitioners can help Indigenous patients self-identify for appropriate care delivery.

“The interactions a doctor has with their patients may be different based on that individuals history or their parents history of dealing with institutions and health care as a consequences of colonization,” says Dr. Hugh Langley, Primary Care and Aboriginal Lead, CCSEO. “These courses will help participants become more aware of some of the biases or assumptions they may unknowingly have and how to overcome those to deliver effective, patient-centred health care.”

After completing the online training residents will have an opportunity to further expand their cultural competency knowledge in a hands-on setting. The online learning component will culminate in a one-day Indigenous health awareness event designed specifically for Queen’s University Family Medicine residents.

Planned jointly by staff from the Cancer Centre and Queen’s University the event will include a panel of Indigenous health care professionals, a blanket exercise and will be catered with Indigenous food.

“The online courses are the headwork and what we’re doing with this event is the heart work,” says Dionne Nolan, Aboriginal Navigator with CCSEO. “The day will really drive home the importance of patient-centred care and the reminder to always engage your human side and your heart which will enable residents to be more successful with building relationships, not only with Indigenous patients, but all patients.”

The partnership with Queen’s University makes them one of the first medical schools to incorporate Cancer Care Ontario courses into mandatory training and the first to partner with CCSEO to further expand the training. The hope is that the success and interest of these courses will inspire other medical schools, family health teams and health care environments to do the same.

“I encourage all programs and institutions that have a responsibility on training and teaching the health care professionals of tomorrow to also incorporate these courses into their curriculum,” says Dr. Langley. “Health care providers play a vital role in helping to build an inclusive and welcoming environment for all patients and these courses are a great way to help inform providers on appropriate ways they can go about that.”

Currently, the ARCC courses have over 10,000 course enrollments and a course completion rate of 81 per cent. The courses are free of charge and can be taken at anytime, anywhere and by anyone. To learn more about the courses, please contact Aboriginal Navigator Dionne Nolan at



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