Cancer controversies and traditional medicines

Today I write for the Saskatoon StarPhoenix and Regina Leader-Post.

The story of cancer patient Ric Richardson, a Métis man from Green Lake, challenges us to think about patient autonomy, medical traditions and Saskatchewan health care.

Just as crucial, his story forces us to reconsider the use and acceptance of traditional Aboriginal knowledge — not only in medicine but in society more broadly.

The full story can be read here:

http://leaderpost.com/opinion/columnists/cancer-controversies-and-traditional-medicines 

Scottish Crucible. Round 2.

Round 2. Ding Ding.

The 2017 Scottish Crucible’s second lab was graciously hosted by Stirling University on June 1-2 and it rocked the campus. Literally. There was a blue man. A dinosaur. Drawing. Dancing. Sumptuous vistas. Oh yeah, there was a pretty nice castle too!

It began with this view.

Lab 2 was hosted by the irrepressible and commanding Sara Shinton. Honestly, sometimes the participants needed direction as they learnt the ins and outs of ‘brainstorming.’

(Or, as some of us called it: ‘thought-showering.’) No surprise, the phrase didn’t stick.

The thrust of Lab 2 was collaboration. We were enveloped in a cozy bubble, as Sara rightly put it.

How to work together! How to build lasting research partnerships to influence positive change! How to cut across fields and disciplines! The guest speakers were inspiring.

Being a drug historian, I have some thoughts about the tweet below but I’ll keep them to myself.

Chalk this up to aggressive dancing!

Day 2 included further in-depth training on how to develop and drive collaboration.

To start off with, we needed to draw out our research. No easy task.

However, there were other appearances.

For instance, a creepily self-satisfied Dragon…

An introspective blue dude…

DEFRA

But. But. But.

In my estimation, the most exhausting and rewarding moment of the weekend was…speed collaboration. Think speed dating, on steroids. (I am a drug historian).

The experience was supremely enjoyable. Also: Tiring. Amazing. Harrowing. Enriching. All of these. At the same time.

Minds were spinning.

Ding Ding. Bring on Round 3.

See the previous post on the Lab 1 here.

Or visit the Scottish Crucible here.

**

 

NORTEP, Bodies of Education, and Family History.

The Northern Teacher Education Program (NORTEP) in Saskatchewan, Canada commenced in 1976 to facilitate access to teacher education and certification for northerners, particularly those of Aboriginal ancestry.

It covers tuition costs, books, and a living allowance for students who have lived in the north for 10 years or half their life.

By most accounts, it has been a success. Which is why the recent decision to cut funding to NORTEP and transfer its $3.4 million in funding to another institution, has raised somber questions about the priorities of the Wall government.

According to Saskatchewan’s Advanced Education Minister Bronwyn Eyre, the decision was “about equity … it’s not about necessarily getting rid of the bursary structure.”

Unfortunately, this signals tremendous lack of forethought. The optics are dreadful, especially at a moment when Colton Bushie weighs on the hearts and minds of many in the province. And the decision also carelessly flies in the face of ongoing tragedies in Northern communities, including suicides, shootings, and missing women.

More than that, Saskatchewan has garnered international attention in the pages of The Atlantic magazine for its ground-breaking (but long overdue) approach to Aboriginals in higher education. The NORTEP decision is a step backward.

In short, the long-term benefits of the program should be weighed up more sensibly. Luckily, there are useful historical lessons to draw from.

In June 1987, pennies were being pinched. The “great barbeque was over,” according to the NDP’s Janice McKinnon, and the “bills for the wild spending were coming due.”

The Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP) identified the need for a review of the program’s progress. Worried about cuts and reallocations, SUNTEP reached out to experts in education.

One of those was Ruben Richert, a former teacher, principal, and past-president of the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation. In 1987, he was asked to evaluate the program and produce a report on its sustainability in the province’s educational eco-system.

SUNTEP ran in Prince Albert, Regina, and Saskatoon, and operated out of the Gabriel Dumont Institute. For Director James McNinch, it offered a “measure of control and participation in the education of Native teachers and Native children and in the maintenance and affirmation of a cultural identity which prevents assimilation of the minority culture.”

In a period of provincial fiscal restraint, there was significant concern that programs such as SUNTEP might be “erroneously regarded as expendable frills or fringes” and money could be shunted elsewhere.

The 52-page report evaluating SUNTEP determined that the social costs of cuts to the program could be far more expensive in the long-term than the program dollars involved.

A number of recommendations for improvement were made, and the need for introspection was underlined. But the ultimate conclusion held that:

“The question as to whether there is a need for a program like SUNTEP should not have to be asked…We know it is an investment that actually bears interest rather than being a drain on the economy.”

At the time, Grant Devine’s Progressive Conservatives used privatization and public-service reduction to shrink the government. And Devine pointed to the financial necessity of restraint in the province. Over 1,100 civil servants were offered early retirement.

The budget of 1987-88 saw an absolute decline in spending of roughly five percent. Yet, he included an 11 percent increase for education. He did not undermine SUNTEP’s ability to operate at its current service levels.

The NDP often takes credit for SUNTEP and NORTEP, and deservedly so. But it should be noted there was often general bipartisan agreement – if not absolute harmony – about the value of these programs.

This seems far from the case in the present. Budgets have been cut for Saskatoon’s Lighthouse homeless shelter, and the same is true for the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) program and the general Saskatchewan Assistance Program (SAP). Pinching pennies is one thing, but as Murray Mandryk argued, it’s wise not to be pound foolish.

If NORTEP plays a role in minimizing alienation and redressing lack of educational options in the North, the program should be maintained.

The 1987 report framed SUNTEP’s usefulness as a minor way of “helping to maintain a culture and heritage and preventing assimilation.”

It wasn’t big money, but the results were important. Much the same can be said of NORTEP. It would be advantageous to let the BBQ continue.

Medical History on the Move

I have a new blog post on the University of Toronto’s site.

 

I’m incredibly excited to be working with CBMH/BCHM and University of Toronto Press over the summer months. It will be my pleasure to help out with journal’s migration to the UofT’s publishing platform. As part of this transition, we are moving all of the back issues onto UofT’s server, and in some cases enhancing them, with abstracts and keywords. The journal is about to publish its 66th issue, so there are lots to consider!

As the journey commences this summer, I’ll be posting and tweeting about the process – all of the amazing stops and bumps in the road, as well excellent articles and contemporary health and medicine issues dating back to the mid-1980s. I’d guess holidays would come first, but I encourage you to share and participate in the voyage as much as you can!

For updates see, @DrLucasRichert and LucasRichert.com

Lucas Richert, PhD

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