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Canadian Paediatric Society

Medicine comes in all shapes and forms

Posted on Nov 19 2015 by the Canadian Paediatric Society | Permalink

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National Resident Advocacy Day is an initiative of the CPS Residents Section and is supported by the Healthy Generations Foundation. This initiative aims to give residents hands-on experience in the CanMEDS role of health advocate and to raise awareness about critical children and youth health issues. Paediatric residency programs across Canada participate by organizing resident education and community awareness activities.

This year’s topic is First Nations, Inuit and Métis Health: Reconciliation in Action. Residents will be participating in advocacy activities over the next few months.

In keeping with this year’s topic, second-year resident Dr. Priyanka Dixit of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), shares her experience of a smudging ceremony at the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health in Ottawa.


My experience at the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health was beautiful. It was one of the rare times in medicine that I felt was more about the artistic aspects of healing and less the science.

I experienced my first “smudge” or healing circle ceremony. I have to admit, I wished all my days began this way. Tucked away in the corner of the Wabano Centre was a precious room—the smudge room. It is warm, circular, dimly lit, made of wooden planks, with cushions on the corners. In the centre is a small table holding various spices and ornaments. All along the walls were pieces of traditional Aboriginal artwork. I entered the room alongside members of a multidisciplinary team,all there to help support a family in need.

The ceremony began with the burning of sage. We all had the opportunity to cleanse ourselves with the scented smoke it offered. We directed the smoke to wash over any aspect of our body we thought needed it. One by one each member of the circle exposed areas of themselves they wished to purify directing the smoke to areas of vulnerability, reminding each other that we all have areas of weaknesses that need to be worked on.

What I cherished was the private and unique setting this room offered—a getaway from the chaos of life. There were no screens, no beeps, no hint of technology. The only sounds were each other’s voices and the jingle from the talking stick as it was passed around the room. We took the time to get to know the central family and individuals within the circle, everyone sharing a personal story about themselves to acknowledge that we all have things in common. Although we may not entirely understand, we are all still equal and are all in this together.

It was made clear that this was not going to be a “meeting” and instead this gathering was of positivity and warmth. Families come across difficult situations and every member in that room was there to help and offer suggestions. I had never met this family before but I understood that they were going through a devastating time. I was humbled to be a part of this circle and felt privileged to share in this experience. I walked out of the room mesmerized at the whole process, wishing all multidisciplinary team meetings were held like this. This gathering was powerful and although there may have been many hurdles to overcome, we were able to establish connections, relationships and create an initial plan.  

Medicine comes in all shapes and forms and it was wonderful to participate in a form of care I had never encountered before.


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Last updated: Nov 19 2015