Youth from the Medical Careers Exploration Program learning how to use medical technology


Empowering Indigenous youth to pursue careers in healthcare

Dec 22, 2022
When Sheri was young, she recalls not seeing many people who looked like her working in healthcare professions. As an Indigenous youth, she found this to be quite discouraging.  
“Growing up, I didn’t think that the medical field was for me as I didn’t see any Indigenous representation,” said Sheri. “But I was interested in learning more about it through the Pan Am Clinic Foundation’s Medical Careers Exploration Program, which ended up giving me a lot of great experience and opportunities within the field.”
The Pan Am Clinic Foundation’s Medical Careers Exploration Program (MCEP) is a one-of-a-kind initiative that gives Indigenous high school students in Winnipeg the opportunity to explore and experience a diverse range of healthcare careers while working alongside medical professionals. The concept for this unique program was established by Dr. Wayne Hildahl in 2007. In its early years, he recalls a student of his who he was mentoring identified a broken bone when looking at an x-ray for the first time.  
“My student’s jaw dropped and so did mine when he was able to identify a broken metatarsal on an x-ray,” said Dr. Hildahl. “I didn’t know what a metatarsal was let alone being able to diagnose a broken one until my first year of studying medicine.” 

A one-of-a-kind career exploration program for Indigenous youth

MCEP began as a partnership between the Pan Am Clinic and Children of the Earth High School. With the increased popularity among Indigenous students and improvement in academic performance that this multi-year program was garnering, in 2022, MCEP expanded to Indigenous students across the Winnipeg School Division.
Thanks to a grant from the TELUS Manitoba and Saskatchewan Community Board, we’re supporting the expansion of MCEP in order to give more Indigenous students the opportunity to learn about, experience and pursue a career in healthcare. This funding will allow grade 10 students across Winnipeg to gain hands-on experience and mentorship from healthcare professionals through the program’s unique curriculum, which also works towards attaining a high school diploma. 

Inspiring students through innovative medical technology 

The highlight for many of the students in the program is being able to learn about and use cutting-edge medical technology. Students are introduced to virtual reality simulators that surgeons use, MRI and x-ray machines, laparoscopic cameras and much more through their practicums. This allows students to truly understand what various careers in the medical field entail, and inspires them to take a path that suits their learning interests.
In addition to hands-on learning over three years of high school, another major part of the program is providing students with the customized support that they need to go on to post-secondary education. This starts with the help of grad coaches or guidance counselors working with students to apply for healthcare related post-secondary programs. Participants also receive $1,000 in bursaries for every year they complete in MCEP, up to a maximum of $3,000. 
“MCEP has led me to a path where I want to work in the field of mental health,” said Sheri. “Without this opportunity, I don’t think I’d be where I am today.” 
Thanks to the support of our donors and visionary organizations like the Pan Am Clinic Foundation, we’re helping inspire and connect Indigenous youth to new career opportunities.