Regina Leader-Post

First Nations doctor blazing her own trail

Dermatolog­ist wants to give back to her community


Rachel Asiniwasis always knew she wanted to enter the medical field because of her love of science and desire to help people.

Last year, after 12 years of schooling, she graduated from the University of Toronto with her doctorate in dermatolog­y.

“I found that dermatolog­y had everything in medicine that I liked,” she said. “There is a little bit of internal medicine. You get to work with all ages from pediatrics and adults. You get some minor surgical procedures. You get to work in a clinic and a hospital. Overall, it’s a really well-rounded specialty.”

Last June, she moved back to Regina and started her practice at the Aspen Medical Centre located in the University of Regina’s Centre for Kinesiolog­y, Health and Sport.

Asiniwasis said it was always her plan to get her education and come back home to work.

“To me, family and community are so important and especially to give back to my community,” she said.

Asiniwasis says the long road to reach her goal was well worth it.

“I am so happy,” she said. “I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.”

Asiniwasis believes it’s important to have more aboriginal people enter the medical field because even now they are few and far between.

“Sometimes it could be a challenge,” she said. “Often I felt like I had to work twice as hard to prove myself half as good.”

Asiniwasis put in the extra work, but believes her work is far from over.

“There is not a lot of representa­tion of First Nations in medical school,” she said. “There are still those stereotype­s out there and it’s hard, especially as an aboriginal woman, but I rise to that challenge. I worked hard to prove myself (because) I want to be a voice for aboriginal people especially youth and students interested in pursuing profession­al (careers) and or university.”

Asiniwasis said aboriginal representa­tion in university is on the rise, but some areas are still lacking.

“In the medical field there is a definite lack of representa­tion — huge — and that needs to be recognized,” she said. “Especially with the growing aboriginal population, our people need to be represente­d.”

She said aboriginal people can provide that culturally sensitive care because they understand the history and what aboriginal people have been through and understand some of the health repercussi­ons facing aboriginal people.

“It’s a complex history,” said Asiniwasis.

Despite her busy schedule, she is open to mentoring youth.

She knows many young people are the first generation in their families to pursue post-secondary education and without someone there to provide guidance, it’s harder to be successful.

Asiniwasis said when you look at First Nations people and postsecond­ary education the history is not very long, which is why it is up to all post-secondary graduates to take the time out and assist the youth when they can.

“I want to tell (the youth), they can do it,” she said. “It’s not something that’s just a distant dream.”

 ?? DON HEALY/Leader-Post ?? Dr. Rachel Asiniwasis a dermatolog­ist at the Aspen Medical Centre at the University of Regina.
DON HEALY/Leader-Post Dr. Rachel Asiniwasis a dermatolog­ist at the Aspen Medical Centre at the University of Regina.

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