Social Accountability and Health Equity at the Heart of Indigenous Health Education

28 Mar 2016

Courtney with Dr Brian Swan and Harvard Dental School students and staff.
Courtney with Dr Brian Swan and Harvard Dental School students and staff.

Courtney Ryder has just returned from a fact-finding mission to transform the next generation of health professionals into culturally safe and competent practitioners.

In 2013, Courtney was awarded a prestigious Churchill Fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to facilitate the development of a curriculum framework for best practice simulation teaching in Indigenous Health.

Courtney spent four weeks learning with practitioners who are driven by health equity, who focus on meeting the needs of Indigenous patients and communities globally.

This saw Courtney country hop, firstly New Zealand, then to America and Canada, examining how simulation technologies can be used to improve teaching and awareness of Indigenous health care.

Courtney’s journey has allowed her to develop a wide ranging network of contacts in tertiary institutes and Indigenous communities in these countries.

“I cannot thank the Winston Churchill Fellowship Trust enough for their generous support,” she said.

“This project will assist the development of a best practice curriculum framework for all health professional programs wanting to teach and assess Indigenous health and culturally safe care, an area that many institutes all over the world are struggling with.”

She arrived in New Zealand to an earthquake, and spent the week with Māori academics and world leaders in Māori standardised patient and clinical skills education at Otago University.

Then in New York, Courtney learned from cultural competent simulator academics in specialised extended training medical programs at New York University and the NYSIM laboratory.

In Boston, where cultural competency, diversity and global health plays a focus in the medicine, dentistry and oral hygiene programs, Courtney spent time at Harvard and Northeastern University where dental programs have a core global health elective providing outreach to the Wampanoag community at Martha’s Vineyard.

Courtney braved the freezing cold in Canada, and copious amounts of snow in Subdury, to see the Northern Ontario School of Medicine - the first socially accountable medical school.

There she met with staff and Elders, and visited Mmaamodzawin and Wikwemikong Health Centres and Aboriginal community representatives at Manitoulin Island.

The final stop was McMaster’s University in Ontario, who revolutionised the medical entry process through Multiple Mini Interviews with a focus on Aboriginal health.

Now home in Australia, Courtney said she intends on translating the knowledge and experience she was awarded into a best practice curriculum framework for simulation in Indigenous health.

“I feel so fortunate to have been given this opportunity and have undertaken this journey,” Mrs Ryder said.

“It still seems so surreal, my journey took me from discussing the struggles and challenges the Wampanoag face at Martha’s Vineyard, to Elders in Sudbury sharing openly with me their family stories and struggles.

“I was able to present on clinical blind spots to hospital administrators and health professionals in Sudbury, and learn from inspiring Māori academics in Christchurch.

“I have been afforded an opportunity beyond what I could have imagined, with memories and relationships which will remain a life time.”


Courtney and family with, Atikameksheng First Nation Elders and First Nation staff.
Courtney and family with, Atikameksheng First Nation Elders and First Nation staff.

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