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Sudbury student among recipients of northern med school’s first Indigenous Learner awards

Mélanie-Rose Frappier of Sudbury and Alison Lewis of Sioux Lookout will split $47,500 in award funds

Two Northern Ontario medical students have been presented with the first ever CIBC Indigenous Learner Leadership Awards presented to students of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM).

Mélanie-Rose Frappier of Sudbury and Alison Lewis of Sioux Lookout are both fourth-year NOSM med-students. They  are the inaugural recipients of newly established CIBC Indigenous Learner Leadership Awards, said a news release from NOSM. The awards recognize self-identified Indigenous learners at NOSM who demonstrate exceptional leadership and mentorship within the school and the community.

Dr. Sarita Verma, the dean, president and CEO at NOSM, was pleased with the award news.

“Mélanie-Rose and Alison are fantastic leaders with a strong commitment to promoting access to health care, Indigenous culture, anti-racism, equity and inclusion,” said Verma.

“They are compassionate individuals who have made a real difference and will continue to do so as future physicians in Northern Ontario.”

The award provides that each student will receive $20,000 along with a professional development budget of $3,750 and are supported with networking resources. The students will become active members of the Indigenous Reference Group and the Indigenous Health Education Committee at NOSM during the fourth year of their MD program. As student members, they provide insight and actionable items to support future Indigenous health learners at NOSM and in Northern Ontario, said NOSM.

Both award recipients expressed gratitude and their personal commitment to advancing social accountability in health care, said NOSM. The school said in a news release that social accountability is a core value at NOSM and is instilled in students and learners throughout their educational experience.

The students also expressed gratitude for the honours.

“Thank you for this award. I am truly honoured,” said Frappier, who also holds an undergraduate degree in Indigenous Studies. 

“Health and culture are my passions, and I plan to include both Western and Indigenous ways of thinking and healing in my future practice. I truly believe that in order to heal we must focus on all aspects of health including the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual."

Frappier has long been community-minded and an active volunteer. At age 16 she created her own non-profit organization called C’est Cool d’être en Santé, with the goal of educating youth about the importance of physical activity and created a declaration focusing on the educational inequalities facing Indigenous youth. She is the founder of several NOSM interest groups, including the Indigenous Cultural Activities Interest Group, the Self-Accountability Group, and is co-president of the Anti-Racism Book Club.

Frappier plans to practise family medicine in Indigenous and Francophone communities in Northern Ontario, while Lewis plans to work as a family physician in the North.

NOSM said the awards come as the result of a $150,000 donation provided by CIBC in May of 2020 to establish a new initiative designed to promote and recognize Indigenous learner leadership and mentorship. These awards will also improve learning and networking opportunities available to recipients.