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Physician with a young child wearing pigtails.

Three-time UM alum honoured with prestigious Indspire Award

February 22, 2024 — 

UM alum Jayelle Friesen-Enns [B.Sc./17, M.Sc./23, MD/2023] is a 2024 recipient of the prestigious Indspire Award.

“On behalf of the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, I extend heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Friesen-Enns for this well-earned recognition,” said Dr. Peter Nickerson, vice-provost (health sciences), dean, Max Rady College of Medicine and dean, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.

“We admire both their dedication to the health sector and their commitment to fostering pride, resilience and inspiration among Indigenous communities. Their success is a testament to their hard work, dedication and passionate advocacy for Indigenous health.”

The Indspire Awards represent the highest honour the Indigenous community bestows upon its own people.

“These awards not only celebrate Indigenous excellence but also inspire future generations to pursue their dreams and make a positive impact in our world,” said Dr. Mike DeGagné, President & CEO of Indspire.

After 30 years, the Indspire Awards have honoured over 400 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis individuals who demonstrate outstanding career achievement, promote self-esteem and pride for Indigenous communities, and provide inspirational role models.

The award will be presented on April 18, 2024 at the Shaw Centre in Ottawa, ON.

Portrait of Jayelle Friesen-Enns.Friesen-Enns, who is Red River Métis, is currently completing a five-year residency program in Emergency Medicine at the University of Calgary.

“I felt drawn to medicine because it would allow me to study the subject that I enjoy while also making a difference,” they said. “I hope that being an Indigenous physician makes the health-care system feel like a safer space for Indigenous people and that I can help to increase trust by being a community member of the patients I am serving.”

Pursuing medicine hasn’t been without its struggles, Friesen-Enns said. Not only did they face the usual pressures of a demanding program, but financial problems, racism and imposter syndrome all played a part in their journey. “As an Indigenous medical student, there are many people who think that you didn’t need to be as smart or accomplished as they did to get into medical school,” Friesen-Enns said. “These negative opinions definitely affected me and made me wonder if I was smart enough or if I deserved to become a doctor.”

They didn’t back away from the challenge. Not only did they complete three degrees at the University of Manitoba, but they also helped pave the way for other Indigenous students along the way.

Friesen-Enns is a co-founder of the Indigenous Medical Students’ Association of Canada (IMSAC) and part of the Canadian Medical Association’s (CMA) Indigenous Guiding Circle.

“Being Métis influenced my decisions to pursue leadership throughout my post-secondary education so that I could be in positions that would allow me to address gaps and raise awareness for Indigenous perspectives and issues,” they said. “I co-founded IMSAC in an effort to create a place where Indigenous medical students from across the country could connect with one another in order to form a community and support each other throughout their medical education.”

On completing their residency, Friesen-Enns would like to work to improve culturally safe care within emergency departments and to act as a mentor and/or role model to young Indigenous students with an interest in health care to increase Indigenous representation in medicine.

“Having the opportunity to be seen as a role model to Indigenous youth through winning this award is such a privilege,” they said. “It is a very long road, but it is worth it to persevere. We need more Indigenous doctors and it is such an incredible opportunity to be able to serve your community by providing health care.”

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