Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women: Dr. Marcia Anderson
UM vice-dean of Indigenous health, social justice and anti-racism named among Canada's Top 100 Most Powerful Women
Dr. Marcia Anderson’s leadership roles—at the regional, provincial and national level—are wide-ranging, but they all have one common goal: to improve medical education and provide high-quality, culturally safe health care for Indigenous Peoples.
A University of Manitoba alum and now Senator on the UM Senate, Anderson first joined the departments of community health sciences and internal medicine 15 years ago and has since held several leadership positions within the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. In early 2022, she was appointed vice-dean of Indigenous health, social justice and anti-racism, a role that will help align anti-colonial and anti-racism initiatives across the university. Anderson was a recent guest on the podcast ‘What’s the big idea?’. Listen now to the episode where she talks with UM President Michael Benarroch about anti-racism in medical education.
“It’s an honour to build on the work of people who have come before us to make meaningful change,” she says. “I want my children to have great experiences in health care that celebrate who they are. There will be ongoing work to do, but hopefully the load that they have to pick up and carry in their lifetimes is a bit easier because of the work that we do.”
Being recognized as a Canada’s Most Power Women: Top 100 Award Winner in the Community Impact category is especially significant to her.
“I feel honoured and grateful for the work we do in Ongomiizwin-Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing—it’s a team approach,” she says. “Serving our communities and working on Treaty One Territory for most of my career has been tied to making the health-care system safer for my family and the communities that I’m part of. That’s always been the goal: to improve health services for our communities.”
Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Anderson, also a medical officer of health for Indigenous Services Canada, served as public health lead for the Manitoba First Nations Pandemic Response Coordination Team. For her efforts, she was recognized as Physician of the Year by Doctors Manitoba.
“[Ongomiizwin executive director] Melanie MacKinnon and I both have leadership roles with the team, and we often talked about how we brought everything we’ve learned in our careers—as well as all of our relationships—to leverage a strong First Nations-led response,” says Anderson, who is Cree-Anishinaabe with family roots in Norway House Cree Nation and Peguis First Nation. “This is reconciliation in practice, meeting community needs in real time under their leadership and direction.”
In addition to her Top 100 Award—her second—she has won numerous awards for her efforts throughout her career. But contributing to community and working alongside her teams are what drive her as a leader every day, even when the results may not end up as expected.
“We learn by doing, which requires a bit of humility and willingness to make mistakes and course-correct along the way,” she says. “Trust is critically important. I want the people who I work with and the members of my team to be able to trust me. I think it’s very important to have stated values, and I want how I work with people to align with those ways of being or those values.”
On the same note, she advises others—in leadership positions or not—to think about the contributions they want to make and the type of work that will align with their core purpose and values.
“When I was younger, I had no idea of the different possibilities in medicine. I certainly could never have envisioned the work that I do now,” she says. “But I always knew that I wanted to contribute to Indigenous health and Indigenous learners, and I knew I wanted to do it in connection with my own cultural identity and my own communities.”