Regional Cancer Care Northwest at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC) received a boost of colour thanks to an art donation by local businesswoman, Debra Chenier. The donation by Chenier, owner of Chenier Fine Arts, of a triptych by local artist Cree Stevens, was announced today, marking the culmination of a week-long celebration at TBRHSC of Aboriginal culture and National Aboriginal Day.

“Let’s make the hospital a place to see colour,” said Louise Thomas, owner of the Ahnisnabae Art Gallery and member of the TBRHSC Aboriginal Advisory Committee. “I believe art has an important role to play in healing and helps inspire feelings of peace and hope for patients, families, and healthcare providers.”
“We are committed to improving the physical and cultural environment at TBRHSC to be more welcoming to Aboriginal patients and families,” said Chisholm Pothier, Vice-President, Communications and Engagement, Aboriginal Affairs and Government Relations. “I am confident that that this artwork will be very much appreciated by all patients and families in the cancer centre, as well as staff and volunteers.”

Today’s event was also an opportunity to provide an update on progress over the past year in TBRHSC’s journey towards excellence in Aboriginal healthcare delivery, one of the four strategic directions identified in the TBRHSC Strategic Plan 2015. Some of the highlights include recent engagement of Aboriginal organizations to gauge the demand for a sweat lodge on-site and for the inclusion of traditional food on the cafeteria’s menu.
TBRHSC also continues its work to establish and develop cultural sensitivity and awareness in order to better address the needs of Aboriginal patients and families. This year, a number of individuals from the community, including Jim Chicago and Sheila White, have volunteered their time to offer cultural sensitivity and awareness training at TBRHSC. Self-guided courses are also available to TBRHSC employees on themes such as feasts, gift-giving and sweat lodges.

At TBRHSC’s research arm, the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute (TBRRI), Dr. Ingeborg Zehbe is continuing her research on cervical cancer screening with the goal of improving screening rates and reducing HPV-related cervical cancer among First Nations women in Northwestern Ontario. And in January 2014, TBRRI officially welcomed their newest Clinician Researcher, Dr. Naana Jumah whose focus is also on Aboriginal and women’s health. “National Aboriginal Day is an excellent opportunity to reflect on the unique contributions of First Nations people across Canada and here in Northwestern Ontario,” said Andrée Robichaud, President and CEO, TBRHSC. “In particular, I would like to thank the dedicated volunteers who make up our Aboriginal Advisory Council. These individuals help guide our actions and decisions that will result in improved care for Aboriginal patients and families in Northwestern Ontario.”

The announcement was followed by a performance in the TBRHSC Auditorium by Friends of Dark Cloud Drumming Group.

NAD 2014Gallery owner and donor Debra Chenier (left), and artist Cree Stevens (right), in front of the work, Tonto – the latest addition to the TBRHSC’s collection of Aboriginal art.