A donation to St. Paul's Foundation from Bank of Montreal will support the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) Chair in Heart Health and Wellness at St. Paul's Hospital.
The chair was created in 2015 to lead research and education related to the cardiac health of Indigenous people. That research is then used to shape policies and programming and develop health-promotion strategies that factor in culture and social determinants of health.
“It is our hope – in fact, our belief – that our contributions can help move forward the exceptional work that is being done here," said Paul Seipp, BMO's regional president for business banking in British Columbia and Yukon. He announced a $2 million gift on October, 29 at an event in Vancouver, BC. Of that amount, $1.6 million is earmarked for the Chair, with the other $400,000 to go toward a new hospital that will replace the downtown Vancouver facility.
“We are grateful for this gift that will support the Chair's important work in promoting culturally safe, trauma-informed cardiovascular care for Indigenous people," said Fiona Dalton, President and CEO of Providence Health Care.
Through a community-engaged process, the Chair ensures that priorities are developed with, by, and for the First Nations of British Columbia, upholding the principles of reconciliation.
“We appreciate the generous support from BMO which will fund research that aligns with First Nations health and wellness priorities and supports Indigenous health researchers," said Richard Jock, Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO), FNHA.
Heart-disease rates for Indigenous people in Canada are as much as 50 per cent higher than in the general population, and the death rate from stroke is twice as high, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
"The FNHA is excited by the openness and willingness shown by our partners to support Indigenous heart health and wellness. We all benefit when we work together and learn from one another," said Dr. Evan Adams, Chief Medical Officer, FNHA who spoke at the announcement.
Dr. Jeff Reading, director of the Indigenous Health Education Access Research and Training (I-HEART) Centre in Vancouver, was named inaugural chair in 2016.
Since then, he has facilitated research on rare genetic disorders among Indigenous children; metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that contribute to heart disease; and the fetal origins hypothesis, the theory that adverse nutrition in utero is linked to heart disease in middle age.
He describes himself as a “catalyst" who seeks out the best and brightest researchers for the tasks at hand, reaching across medicine, health authorities and academia.
“It's impossible for one person be an expert at everything, so what we do is align and collaborate, and help to get knowledgeable, experienced people to turn their attention to what's going on in the native community," said Dr. Reading, a Mohawk from Ontario's Tyendinaga First Nation.
“If you seed these relationships all over a big institution like Providence Health Care," he added, referring to the health-care provider under which St. Paul's Hospital operates, "you end up creating a wave of change. And that's reconciliation."