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Dr. June Marion James reflects on Black History Month

Dr. June Marion James reflects on Black History Month

College council representative on her challenges and successes as a woman of colour

February 20, 2024 — 

The reflection of Black History Month allows us to recognize a St John’s alum, former Max Rady college of Medicine professor and current St John’s college council member Dr. June Marion James. The acclaimed Black physician and previous UM Distinguished Service Award recipient has faced both challenges and successes throughout her medical career.   

After moving to Canada in 1960, James graduated from the Faculty of Science in 1967 pursuing medicine with residency in paediatrics. She was the first woman of colour to be admitted to the UM’s Faculty of Medicine, where she was the innovator in asthma and allergies, developing Manitoba’s first ever Family Asthma Program.  

Her list of personal and career accomplishments is long, and she has been recognized with many accolades including a Manitoba Women Trailblazer Award, Order of Manitoba, and the Queen Elizabeth  50th  Jubilee Medal, among others.   

We asked Dr. James what Black History Month means to her.  

In our conversation, she noted that the month celebrates historical and ongoing challenges, triumphs, barriers, and experiences of Black people, including showcasing the importance of diversity for future generations. 

“It allows us to showcase who we are and what we’ve done,” she said. “Many people have realized that Black people can do many things for years. They have become top professionals, professional sports athletes, and accomplished things in various areas.” 

No matter where Dr. James was, she exercised her expertise and experience. Whether it was in hospitals, at board meetings, or as the CEO of an organizations, James leveraged this challenge of being seen as ‘different’ to be heard at the table.     

“Being a Black woman isn’t easy, and you get looked down on a lot,” she said. “However, when I was in the hospitals, I made sure to let everyone know I was the one in charge; people had to follow my lead and listen to me.”     

James found her community in her work, which provided her an intrinsic reward. She is former president of multiple organizations, such as the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba, Winnipeg Clinic, Manitoba Museum and Manitoba Museum Foundation, and the Congress of Black Women of Manitoba. She also served with other organization over the years, including the Citizenship Council of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the United Way Board of Directors and the “Improving a neighbourhood for a neighbour,” program with the Winnipeg Foundation. She established the June Marion James bursary at The Winnipeg Foundation, an annual bursary that goes to an international student at St John’s College at the University of Manitoba.      

“The most rewarding thing was working in communities,” she said. “I took much of what I learned regarding life lessons from my family and took them throughout my career.”    

Dr. June James continues to be involved in her community and was recently recognized for her accomplishments on featured on the Government of Canada Black History Month website about her work.  


Read more about Dr. June Marion James on the Doctor’s Manitoba website. 


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