Volunteering with the Board of Directors at AHT Strengthens the Spirit and Connects Dr. Annelind Wakegijig to her late Father
Growing up at Wikwemikong First Nation on Manitoulin Island in the late 80s/early 90s, Dr. Annelind Wakegijig had never thought about becoming a physician despite a love of science in high school. “Originally, I thought about maybe becoming a lab technician. I had never met an Indigenous doctor – it wasn’t something that occurred to me.”
Annelind credits a tour of the University of Toronto organized by Kahontakwas Diane Longboat when she was midway through high school with opening a doorway to a career in medicine. Kind and persistent encouragement to students from First Nations Communities by Anne Marie Hodes from the University of Alberta School of Medicine led Annelind to attend the school.
And it was a summer placement at Anishnawbe Health Toronto in 1992, working with the Street Patrol team, that sparked a passion for her: “It was so inspiring to see Traditional Healers centred in the circle of care. The organization and staff are amazing, and it gave me the strength and resolve to continue in my studies and graduate.”
At the same time, that summer she grew to understand more about her father Ron’s work as one of the respected early visiting Traditional Healers at AHT. “I didn’t really know that much about my Dad’s work when I was younger. I knew he was away from home helping people, but he didn’t talk much about what he did – he always respected confidentiality and protected privacy.”
“When I worked at AHT that summer, I saw the great affection Dad had for the health centre and the respect he had for the staff like Joe Hester. I learned more about his work and his gifts. Dad and I would have long talks about the medicine wheel teachings, and he passed on his strong belief that Traditional Healing and Western Medicine are complementary. It’s not an either/or. Traditional Healing wasn’t an ‘alternative’ practice as it was discussed in school.”
Annelind has carried those teachings with her throughout her career, using them daily in her work as Lead Physician at the Baawaating Family Health Team at Batchewana First Nation near Sault Ste. Marie and in her other volunteer roles with ORNGE, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and as a member of the COVID-19 Primary Care and Children’s COVID-19 Vaccine tables.
When she was asked to join the AHT Board in late 2019, she was humbled to be able to give back in this way to an organization that had meant so much to her and her family. “Being on the Board, particularly during the pandemic, has strengthened my spirit in so many ways. While seeing so many disparities and challenges that the pandemic has brought to light, it has been a privilege to see how AHT has risen to the challenge and works to meet the needs of the community.”