Building relationships. Danielle Alcock knows that enjoyable part of her graduate student days will be paramount in her new role as Indigenous Leader in Residence, a newly created role at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.
“For me, relationship building is going to be the biggest piece: Not only within Schulich. Not only at Western. But with community members, especially First Nations communities.”
In the role, Alcock, a member of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation, will help move forward with the school’s Indigenous Health Action Plan and help it achieve health-care education goals outlined by the Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
She has held advocacy roles with the Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre, most recently as an Aboriginal Patient Navigator where she offered advocacy and culturally safe holistic support to Indigenous clients at local hospitals. Her new role, she explained, is a great opportunity to bring that community experience back to campus.
“I’ve been that person who has helped seniors and kids navigate the health-care system. I’ve been on the other side and have seen some of those systemic barriers and difficulties. I’ve been that support, that go-between for people,” said Alcock, MA’14 (Anthropology), PhD’19 (Anthropology), a professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. “I saw this new role as an opportunity to make an impact for medical education and the creation of new doctors in our communities.”
Alcock plans to embrace the strong team beside her.
“I’m totally comfortable asking for help as needed. If you are going to make changes, they have to be team-based in this position,” she said. “There’ll be a lot of people involved. That’s going to be exciting to learn so much from the departments, faculties, students. Change is going to be slow if you want it done well.”
Alcock is looking forward to assisting and supporting Indigenous students applying and then attending to Schulich.
“When they’re here, I want to make sure they have that network, that wrap-around of supports on the academic side and focused on their holistic well-being,” Alcock said. “We should be there for them even before they get here – helping them to really know people and ensuring what they’re going to be bringing and contributing to the institution is important. It doesn’t just have to be academics – it can be other aspects of themselves they can bring.”
Alcock explained that serving as a caregiver for her father has shaped her research focus and desire to go into health care. And she knows she is not alone.
“I know first-hand that lot of our students have complex lives and have a lot going on,” she said. “That lived experience is key for the students coming in; it shapes a lot of their desire to become doctors. We need to make sure they continue to find that balance and support them.”
Alcock has been involved in community engagement for years, serving on a number of boards and committees. She is an advisory member of the Ontario Caring Advisory Council, a member of the Patient Experience Committee at London Health Sciences Centre and a post-secondary mentor for the Babamadiziwin Program at Chippewas of Rama First Nation.
She is also on the executive board of the Deshkan Ziibi Chapter of the Ontario Native Women’s Association and a mentee with the Indigenous Mentorship Network Program of Ontario.
“I hope down the road we will begin to see a lot more Indigenous faculty, staff and students here. I hope our school becomes a place people are going to be choosing because of our approach to support of Indigenous students throughout their journey, and even after they leave.”