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Improving health outcomes for Aboriginal peoples

Improving health outcomes for Aboriginal peoples

Dr. Sean Wachtel admits he was surprised – and unpleasantly so – at what he found when he arrived in Canada to begin practicing medicine a decade ago.

After coming from the United Kingdom, he began working in the emergency room at Nelson’s Kootenay Lake Hospital. The last thing he expected was to be confronted by an environment that included discriminatory attitudes about the people he was treating.

“When I first came to Canada, I was completely unaware of the racism and discrimination that exists here,” he says. “It was an unpleasant surprise to find this is the situation in the country and province I’ve chosen to move to.”

Ten years later, Dr. Wachtel finds himself in a position where he can make a real difference in combatting racism in the health-care system.

As Interior Health’s senior medical director for Aboriginal health, a key part of his role is exploring how a health-care system that embraces and models cultural safety and humility links to improved health outcomes for Aboriginal peoples.

The seeds for this opportunity were planted several years ago when Dr. Wachtel was working as a public health specialist with First Nations Health Authority. That’s when he first met Dr. Mike Ertel, vice president of quality and medicine at Interior Health. Dr. Ertel asked him to join the team as part of the organization’s journey to address anti-Aboriginal racism. In this role, Dr. Wachtel works across portfolios at the regional and provincial level.

Dr. Wachtel is on his own journey and says, “I hope that my Aboriginal patients feel their culture and heritage matter when we discuss treatment — and they receive the same high standard of care I try to offer all of my patients.”

I hope my Aboriginal patients feel their culture and heritage matter when we discuss treatment — and they receive the same high standard of care I try to offer all of my patients. ~ Dr. Sean Wachtel

Learn more about Dr. Wachtel on Season 3 Episode 1 of the Interior Voices podcast.

Launched in 2019, Interior Voices is an informal, ongoing conversation around cultural safety and Aboriginal health. Now entering its third season, the series has become an important educational resource for our care teams. The podcast also offers a glimpse into the people and programs within Interior Health which support this important area of care.

Interested in learning more? Check out these highlights: