Dal researcher appointed vice‑chair of Indigenous health advisory board

- August 21, 2017

Dal faculty member Margaret Robinson. (Provided photo)
Dal faculty member Margaret Robinson. (Provided photo)

A Dalhousie researcher has become the new vice-chair of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s (CIHR) Institute Advisory Board on Indigenous Peoples’ Health.

Margaret Robinson, an assistant professor in the Indigenous Studies program, was offered the prestigious role earlier this summer.

“I'm proud to bring a Mi'kmaw presence to the board,” says Dr. Robinson. “Our nation has a long history with Settler Canada and that's a deep well to draw from, experience-wise.”

The CIHR advisory boards provide guidance to the funder’s Scientific Directors and Governing Council. The Advisory Board on Aboriginal People’s Health was established in 2008, with Dalhousie’s Fred Wein (from the School of Social Work), as chair. Originally, the board advised only the Institute of Aboriginal People’s Health, but in 2014, CIHR’s Governing Council replaced the 13 Institute advisory boards with five new boards that serve all of CIHR. In addition to the Advisory Board on Indigenous Peoples’ Health, this includes advisory bodies on:

•    Research Excellence, Policy and Ethics
•    Health Innovation
•    Health Promotion and Prevention
•    Chronic Conditions

“Since we're now advising all of CIHR it's about building relationships across the Institutes,” says Dr. Robinson. “I'm looking forward to working with the board members to accomplish that. We have a lot of smart, experienced, and dedicated people on that board.”

Transcending traditional boundaries

The new version of the advisory boards will seek to support the health and wellness of Indigenous peoples through shared research leadership across CIHR and strategic alliances to help transcend traditional boundaries and establish culturally sensitive policies and interventions.

“Too often, health research hasn't incorporated a solid understanding of Indigenous cultures, Indigenous peoples or our Nations' strengths,” says Dr. Robinson. “We need research that's initiated and led by Indigenous communities, and that reflects their priorities and their vision for their own health.”

In her role of vice-chair, Dr. Robinson hopes to develop effective practices that embody Indigenous values, and ensure that decisions are made in a good way. She sees it as an opportunity to “serve the board members by making sure that their views are heard and understood when we’re providing advice to CIHR’s Scientific Directors, and share the travel and organizational work that’s involved in running an advisory board on a national scale.”

Dr. Robinson will work closely with Jeff Cyr, who is the current chair of the Institute Advisory Board on Indigenous Peoples’ Health.

“Jeff and I share a pragmatic and strategic approach to our work and a commitment to serving Indigenous communities,” says Dr. Robinson. “As an early career researcher, being vice-Chair of an IAB is an opportunity to learn leadership skills from Jeff and the other members.”

Shaping change

Margaret is not a stranger to the CIHR advisory boards, and has been following the new developments since she entered the research field in 2009.
“My postdoctoral supervisor, Lori Ross, instilled in me the importance of understanding the funding system and of being involved where I could,” says Dr. Robinson. “I joined the college of peer reviewers, and I attended the New Investigator trainings held by the Institute on Aboriginal People's Health, where I met IAPH Scientific Directors Malcolm King, and later, Carrie Bourassa, and advisory board member such as Heather Castleden, Pierre Haddad, Josée Lavoie, and Chris Musquash. When I saw the IABs were looking for applicants I jumped at the opportunity to shape change at a national level.”

As a community based researcher, Dr. Robinson’s work examines the impact of intersecting oppressions and draws on critical, postcolonial, and queer theories, intersectionality, and third wave feminism. In 2016 she led a team that developed and validated a measure of microaggressions and microaffirmations experienced by bisexual women.

In addition, Dr. Robinson is also the principal investigator on a CIHR-funded study to explore cultural interventions for Indigenous youth at risk of conflict with the law (together with Jessica Demeria at the Ontario HIV treatment Network), and is the co-investigator on a study to improve stress and wellness among Indigenous women living in poverty, led by Dalhousie Alumna Dr. Anita Benoit.

IAB chairs are appointed by by CIHR’s Governing Council, and serve an initial three-year term with the possibility for a second three-year term.


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