Cancer Centre Ontario names Dr. Wakegijig as Native lead

SUDBURY—The Northeast Cancer Centre of Health Sciences North announced the appointment of Dr. Annelind Wakegijig as the new Cancer Care Ontario Aboriginal Cancer Lead for Northeastern Ontario.

Originally from the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve, Dr. Wakegijig had been the lead physician for the Baawaating Family Health Team on the Batchewana First Nation, near Sault Ste. Marie.

“I am eager for the opportunity to give back to my community on a larger scale,” Dr. Wakegijig said in a press release. “I look forward to interaction and collaboration between my colleagues in primary care and the many great people on the First Nations and the Metis in our area.”

Aboriginal Patient Navigators and Regional Cancer Leads promote access to timely cancer diagnosis and treatment and work to ensure seamless, coordinated care and services by assisting cancer patients and their families in navigating the healthcare delivery system, a press release from Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) states. They (leads and navigators) can help aboriginal patients and their families by providing support at clinic visits, helping patients and families communicate with doctors and nurses and will work with existing language and cultural translation services or help arrange these services.

The appointments are part of a focussed CCO effort to help Fist Nation peoples overcome their higher cancer incidence and mortality rates and better navigate the complexities of the cancer system by building more cultural competency into the system and bridging the divide between healthcare providers and their aboriginal patients.

Importantly, they help bridge the cultural divide between healthcare providers and their aboriginal patients, acting as a resource to assist in providing culturally specific and culturally appropriate healthcare. The navigators and leads initiate and maintain working relationships with aboriginal clients in order to enhance their ability to access and receive hospital, residential, home and community health services. They also support and advocate on behalf of aboriginal patients and their families.

“I am delighted that Dr. Annelind Wakegijig is taking on this role,” said Patrick Madahbee, Grand Council Chief of the Anishinabek Nation. “Her dedication, compassion and tremendous skills make her the perfect choice, especially as she is so well-known and trusted by our people.”

Cancer Care Ontario has funded 10 aboriginal cancer leads through cancer centres across the province. These lead positions will advise and assist with the implementation of the provincial Aboriginal Cancer Strategy II priorities of improving prevention, screening, education, research and supportive and palliative care.

“The health outcomes of aboriginal people are disproportionately lower than those of non-aboriginal Ontarians,” said Alethea Kewayosh, director, Aboriginal Cancer Control Unit, Cancer Care Ontario. “The aboriginal cancer leads will be important advocates within the Ontario cancer system to help inform and guide cancer care initiatives that will help improve health outcomes for FNIM (First Nation, indigenous, Metis) peoples. CCO is pleased with the appointment of Dr. Wakegijig as the aboriginal cancer lead for Northeastern Ontario.”

“We are very excited about the appointment of Dr. Wakegijig to this very important position,” adds Mark Hartman, vice president of cancer services and medical imaging at Health Sciences North. “Cancer patterns differ significantly between the aboriginal population and the general Ontario population, with both higher rates of cancer and higher mortality. Dr. Wakegijig’s work will be instrumental in helping reverse this trend.”