McGill University will offer an Inuit-focused health course

I’d love to be able to offer this in Nunavik eventually,’ says Inuk professor Richard Budgell.

By Sarah Rogers, Nunatsiaq News - July 27, 2021
Richard Budgell is McGill University’s associate professor of Inuit and northern health promotion. (Courtesy of Richard Budgell via Nunatsiaq News)

McGill University students in medicine will soon have the option to register for an Inuit-focused health course.

Associate professor Richard Budgell started started developing a module on Inuit health last year, with the goal of building awareness around Inuit culture for future health-care workers. He teaches Inuit and northern health promotion at the university.

“What started as a module is now a fully-accredited course,” Budgell said.

The one-credit course, called Inuit Health in the Inuit Context, will be offered for the first time in January 2022.

“I’m going to start the course by talking about Inuit presence in what becomes Canada, and then moving in to talk about contact with Europeans and how they affected their health,” Budgell said.

“But I want to focus this on Inuit understanding of health and how Inuit understand themselves, instead of a medical lens that says these people have a high rate of all these diseases and sicknesses.”

Ideally, he hopes there will eventually be Inuit enrolled in family medicine at McGill.

“From what I understand it may be the first university course in health of its kind in Canada,” Budgell said.

“I’m pleased to have been able to make this kind of progress.”

Budgell, whose family is from Nunatsiavut, has spent a large part of his career working at Health Canada, helping to develop an early childhood development program called Aboriginal Head Start, and then later working with Health Canada’s Inuit health branch.

Budgell also served as a chief negotiator for the federal government in 2010 and 2011 as part of the creation of the proposed Nunavik Regional Government in 2010 and 2011, resulting in a model that was eventually scrapped.

“I’d love to be able to offer this in Nunavik eventually,” Budgell said. “To be able to offer this to Inuit would be really enriching, and even become a dialogue about health and well-being.”

Inuit Health in the Inuit Context is one of two Indigenous-focused courses offered through McGill University’s Department of Family Medicine. The other, Indigenous Perspectives, is taught by a Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) professor.