Pandemic Side Effect: Media Spotlight on FNHA’s Doctors



Dr. Kelsey Louie interviewed for an FNHA video. The FNHA has received many requests from external media for interviews with the Office of the Chief Medical Officer team.​

From questions about the First Nations perspective to quirky commentary about COVID-19 music picks, the FNHA's doctors have been in demand by Indigenous and mainstream media on topics related to the pandemic.

“The lack of an Indigenous health authority elsewhere in Canada has contributed to the demand for an Indigenous perspective on this crisis," said Dr. Shannon McDonald, the FNHA's Acting Chief Medical Officer.

“The narrative has been dominated by the western medical model — the immediate needs for testing and the search for treatments, ICU beds and ventilators for those affected, culminating in a vaccine. While these are important, we – as Indigenous public health doctors – also consider the population health perspective as it is more aligned with our perspective as Indigenous people."

Dr. McDonald says the FNHA's work is based on the First Nations Perspective on Health and Wellness, which promotes healthy living, healthy environments and healthy social policies – balanced with culturally appropriate medical interventions when necessary. The FNHA has an important role to play in ensuring the needs of First Nations people are being met, especially since they are often disproportionately impacted by public health emergencies.

Acting Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Nel Wieman, who is a psychiatrist by training, said, “Early on, we realized that the mental health and wellness impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on First Nations communities were going to be significant.

“This is because major historical factors, such as First Nations' past experiences with infectious disease outbreaks and intergenerational trauma, are interlacing with major contemporary stresses, including the recommended public health measures to maintain physical distancing and self-isolate."  

The FNHA has received more than 50 media inquiries since COVID-19 first surfaced. Requests have come from outlets across BC, Canada and internationally, within all mediums: radio, television, print, online and social.  Information requested has varied, while the main focuses include: how First Nations communities are preparing for outbreaks, what challenges they are facing, what harm-reduction approaches are being promoted, how the FNHA is supporting First Nations people in BC during the pandemic, and how Indigenous resilience is helping Indigenous people get through this trying time.

The Globe and Mail, CBC, CBC Indigenous, Radio-Canada, CP, Time Magazine (UK), APTN, and CFNR are among the outlets that have interviewed the FNHA's doctors. ​High-profile leaders such as the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs and National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde, as well as Indigenous Services Canada representatives, have shared or retweeted the FNHA's videos and messages nationally. Dr. Wieman and Dr. Evan Adams also recorded some encouraging radio announcements for the Navajo Nation in the US, which has been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic. 

Some of the interviews have gone beyond basic public health questions. For example, CBC Radio's Tapestry program asked Dr. Wieman for her favourite song for soothing her soul during these trying times. (Dr. Wieman chose “Lovely Day" by Bill Withers because, she said, the chorus is almost like a mantra – "Lovely Day, Lovely Day" – that she can use to help feel happy or calm.) CBC also posted Dr. Wieman's tips for coping with the mental health effects of the pandemic (click here to view).

“The FNHA's Office of the Chief Medical Officer wants to not only provide culturally safe and relevant public health information to Indigenous people in BC, but also to share positive, uplifting and even inspiring stories," said Dr. Wieman.

“Some of our stories are also humorous, which is a great coping mechanism. Overall, we wanted our FNHA messaging to be informative and hopeful during these stressful times. We focus on our Indigenous strengths and resilience.  We want BC First Nations to know that we can stay connected even though we may have to be physically apart.  We want to congratulate them on their efforts to 'flatten the curve' and assure them that there will come a time when we can all be together again."

Check out the links below to view some of the FNHA doctors' articles, video and radio work during this crisis:

 ​First Nations Health Authority modifies COVID-19 communications to consider Indigenous experiences (The Globe and Mail):

 Three tips to reduce pandemic-induced anxiety (CBC):

 First Nations Know Pandemics. This Time, They Say, Will Be Different (The Tyee):

 'Stay calm and move forward': Indigenous doctors on strength, resilience in the face of pandemics (APTN):

For more video and radio work from the FNHA Office of the Chief Medical Officer, click here.

Skip Navigation>About>News and Events>News>Pandemic Side Effect: Media Spotlight on FNHA’s Doctors