Top doc named for new northern First Nations-led health group

Dr. Barry Lavallee was announced as the chief executive officer of Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin (KIM) Inc. on Sept. 17.

Lavallee is a member of the Métis community of St. Laurent, Man., and a descendent of Duck Bay and Lake Manitoba First Nations.

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He provided needed clinical and systems expertise to Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) when they were taking significant steps towards the establishment of a new northern First Nations-led health transformation entity.

“I am pleased to accept this opportunity to make a long-term positive impact on the health and well-being of First Nations citizens living in Northern Manitoba,” said Dr. Barry Lavallee in a press release.

KIM Inc. was established by the MKO Chiefs Task Force on Health during an MKO Chiefs Assembly on Health in January. Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin, which means “Northern Peoples Wellness,” will work to support the health and wellness priorities identified by First Nations in Northern Manitoba.

“My past roles working in medicine, academics, and advocacy have provided me with a wide range of experiences, relationships, and knowledge to help prepare me for this work,” said Lavallee.“I share my deep gratitude with the strong female leaders at MKO and KIM who have laid the groundwork for establishing KIM. I look forward to working closely with these leaders, along with the First Nations leadership, in this important work we need to do together.”

Lavallee received his medical degree in 1988 and completed his training in family medicine in 1990 at the University of Manitoba. He is a doctor of medicine, certified in the College of Family Physicians and is a fellow of the College of Family Physicians. In 2004, he earned a master of clinical sciences degree at Western Ontario University.

Before joining MKO as a medical advisor in 2019, he practised general medicine in Winnipeg, often travelling to Tataskweyak First Nation to provide in-community physician services.

“First Nations leaders are already touting the positive impacts of his involvement to date. He’s smart. He’s connected. He pushes our concerns into the forefront. As chiefs, we do the same, but the systems readily come to the table because of his high level of education and decades of experience as an Indigenous physician and a systems-educator,” said Chief Larson Anderson of Norway House Cree Nation and chair of KIM’s Chiefs Task Force on Health.

Throughout his career, Lavallee focused on improving care and outcomes for First Nations and Métis people. Recently, his work centres on the prevention of chronic kidney disease in Manitoba First Nations using point-of-care testing technology.

Lavallee is not only interested in the emergence of chronic diseases in Manitoba First Nations, but he also wants to understand the influence of colonialism and Indigenous specific racism as significant causation variables.

“We know that while there are many long-standing issues around access to health services for Northern residents, we also know that our communities have the answers,” said MKO Chief Garrison Settee. “Having worked with Dr. Lavallee throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I am thankful for the wisdom the Chiefs Task Force has shown in choosing such a passionate and dynamic Indigenous leader who will work in a strengths-based way to transform health while also holding the federal and provincial health systems and other systems to account.”

Lavallee has also presented to government committees, supported research related to Indigenous peoples, and participated as an expert witness during the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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