When the email arrived from Dalhousie Medical School Admissions, Bonnie Cremo couldn’t open it fast enough.
The Eskasoni First Nation woman, who applied to medical school under Dalhousie’s new Indigenous Admissions Pathway, had dreamed of practicing medicine for as long as she could remember.
In a few short months, her dream will come true.
Bonnie, shown right, is one of 10 applicants who were offered a seat at Dalhousie Medical School under the new Indigenous Admissions Pathway.
Announced in winter 2022, the Indigenous Admissions Pathway helps facilitate entrance into Dalhousie Medical School for Indigenous students by assessing applications using a holistic file review.
Led by Dr. Brent Young, Academic Director for Indigenous Health, and supported by Keknu’tmasiek Ta’n Tel Welo’ltimk (pronounced: gag-new-d-muss-seeg dawn del well-oh-l-dim-k, a Mi’kmaw phrase that translates to “we are learning to be well”) Program Manager Faith Julien, this admissions pathway addresses the barriers that have prevented Indigenous applicants from entering medical school at Dalhousie.
“The previous admissions model was challenging because we know that Indigenous people and other racialized folks are at a disadvantage when it comes to standardized tests such as the MCAT,” says Dr. Young. “This is related to several socioeconomic factors including language, access to education, and income. For Indigenous people, these factors are all influenced by racism and the ongoing legacy of colonization in Canada.”
Recognizing the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) poses a significant barrier to Indigenous Applicants, Dalhousie Medical School removed it as a mandatory requirement in April 2023.
“Recent changes to include the MCAT as an optional requirement for applicants under the Indigenous Admissions Pathway sends a clear message about Dalhousie Medical School’s commitment to promoting education equity for Indigenous people,” says Dr. Young. “We are confident that these changes will open the doors of opportunity for many Mi’kmaw, Wolastoqiyik, and Peskotomuhkati applicants in the years to come.”
Though it was her dream, medical school always seemed out of reach for Bonnie. The mother of four considered applying to other institutions that did not require the MCAT as part of the application process, but uprooting her family was not an option. It wasn’t until she read a CBC-published article on Dalhousie’s new admissions pathway that she began to believe her dream of studying medicine could be a reality.
“The Indigenous Admissions Pathway lit a fire in my being that made me realize that my dream was actually closer than I had ever imagined,” recalls Bonnie. “From my experience with other Indigenous pathways, I know that I will be supported and be successful in Dal’s Faculty of Medicine program through the Indigenous Admission Pathway, along with aid from the Keknu’tmasiek Ta’n Tel Welo’ltimk team,”
Bonnie previously accessed admissions programs to assist Indigenous students, completing the first year of her science degree from Cape Breton University through the Mi’kmaq Science Advantage Program. She went on to complete her Bachelor of Education, and later a Master’s of Education with a concentration in Curriculum & Instruction at St. Francis Xavier University, having applied through a cohort initiatives for First Nation individuals. Access to these programs minimized the obstacles she faced and allowed her to study while raising her young family.
“Indigenous programs have helped me overcome many barriers and have shaped me into the person I am today,” says Bonnie. “I know of the support, benefits and empowerment that come from a pathway such as Keknu’tmasiek Ta’n Tel Welo’ltimk.”
Recommended reading: Dal deepens ties with Indigenous peoples by setting up physical office in Mi'kmaw community
Embracing the journey
When Bonnie begins medical school this fall, she will leave behind her career in education. She has been a teacher at Allison Bernard Memorial High School, with the Eskasoni School Board since 2011.
And while she is fortunate to have been able to share her knowledge with her students, she looks forward to pursuing a passion in medicine that she has carried for so long, and to do so close to home, thanks to the Indigenous Admissions Pathway.
For Bonnie, this is a dream many years in the making, one she encourages others to hang on to.
“Keep your heart and your head focused on your goal— for they will be the motivating factors that will get you through the little steps and with great intention,” she says. “And keep in mind, although the path you’ve envisioned may take time (such as mine), embrace that your journey is one with great lessons to be learned, along the way.”
The 2023/2024 admissions cycle opens June 15. For more information on the Indigenous Admissions Pathway please visit Dalhousie Medical School Admissions.
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