Bryden Bukich is awarded prestigious McCall MacBain scholarship
Bukich plans to work towards more well-rounded Indigenous health education
FKRM master’s student Bryden Bukich was recently awarded a McCall MacBain scholarship from McGill University. This is the second class of McCall MacBain scholars at McGill, and Bukich is among 20 others who were chosen from an application pool of 700 for this prestigious program.
McCall MacBain scholarships are awarded to students who plan to pursue master’s level or professional studies at McGill university. Recipients are chosen based on their academics, leadership qualities, level of community engagement, entrepreneurial spirit and curiosity. Those chosen for the program receive tuition and living expenses to support their studies.
Additionally, the McCall MacBain scholarship program provides mentorship, coaching, and a leadership curriculum for the scholars involved.
Bukich says having tuition covered removes financial barriers to education and “allows us students to focus on our projects, our initiatives, we don’t have that worry at the back of our mind.”
While grateful for financial support, Bukich says he’s most looking forward to having “a community of people who you get to work with who are like-minded.”
Bukich plans to use the scholarship to either pursue medical school or a master’s at McGill. He is devoted to changing the landscape of the Canadian healthcare system by exploring ways the system can prioritize Indigenous healthcare at both macro (research) and micro (individual practitioner) levels.
“I see myself in my future career doing micro-individual work as a physician and helping Indigenous patients as a doctor but then also having a macro-level impact on Indigenous populations through research and policy development. That’s what I’m trying to do through anti-racism work, Indigenous health education,” he explains.
Why Indigenous health education research?
Bukich has diverse experience in the areas of sport and Indigenous health research. After taking a kinesiology course with Dr. Henhawk that explored Indigenous peoples’ histories with physical activity and sport, he says he became increasingly attuned to the ways that colonization and intergenerational trauma have impacted Indigenous participation in sport. This sparked an interest in Indigenous health and medicine, and Bukich also began learning more about his own Métis heritage at that time.
Like many undergraduate students, Bukich wasn’t entirely certain where he was headed with his interests. He had worked at a physiotherapy clinic at Pan Am and had been with Indigenous Health through the WRHA for several years, but it wasn’t until he was hired as a research coordinator through the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba (FNHSSM), where he works with Dr. Wanda Phillips-Beck, that he discovered his passion for Indigenous health education research.
Bukich says that working at FNHSSM made him realize that he wanted to pursue medicine as well as work to improve Indigenous health in Canada through research.
“I started to connect the dots,” he says, explaining that Indigenous health is a chronically under-discussed topic in health education programs. Addressing issues such as neglect, stereotypes, and discrimination that lead to Indigenous people being denied adequate medical care starts at the level of health education, explains Bukich.
Bukich’s hope is that if health education programs—such as nursing and medical school—integrate Indigenous health education as an essential component of their curriculum rather than one-off sessions or pilot projects, those working in Canadian healthcare will inflict less discrimination, neglect and racism towards Indigenous people.
Academic and on-the-ground experiences
The research that Bukich is working on for his master’s involves formulating a three-pronged model that explores factors involved in teaching about Indigenous health, including how to engage students with difficult material, the benefits of land-based and experiential learning, and methods for evaluating student learning.
Aside from his expansive research experience, including other projects he is working on through FNHSSM, Bukich is also devoted to working with Indigenous youth directly through sports programming. Having played in the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) as a basketball player in 2017, Bukich says that he began to connect with Indigenous ways of knowing by approaching sport with an emphasis on “fun, community, health, ceremony, building friendships” rather than with a western, competitive mindset.
He explains he wanted to take that learning and give back to Indigenous youth, so he started coaching for NAIG, which he’s been doing for three years now. When the pandemic hit, Bukich realized the gap that would be left in Indigenous youth’s lives without sports programming, so he created an online training program for them so they could still workout and practice virtually (and sometimes in-person) throughout the pandemic.
“I wanted to give back to youth,” he says, “a lot of Indigenous youth, regardless of the pandemic, don’t have access to coaching, mentors, facilities, or programs in rural or remote communities.”
Studying in Eastern Canada
Ultimately, receiving a McCall MacBain scholarship will allow Bukich to continue working to better Indigenous health care and Indigenous health education across Canada.
In Manitoba, he says he already sees a strong emphasis on talking about issues related to the rights of Indigenous people. In Eastern Canada, he says “there is a larger gap for Indigenous health initiatives,” which is both daunting and exciting, he explains.
“It’s intriguing knowing there’s a gap and that you can maybe be a pioneer in helping contribute to that,” he says.
He adds that the McCall MacBain scholarships really emphasized the importance of reconciliation and working towards filling those gaps.
The FKRM congratulates Bukich on winning this prestigious position in one of Canada’s newest and most innovative graduate-level leadership programs. We look forward to seeing all the work he will do next.
Bukich will be presenting research conducted through FNHSSM at Research Day on May 11, alongside Dr. Wanda Phillips-Beck.