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Inaugural award recognizes physician’s work in First Nations

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By Sam Laskaris Sweetgrass Writer EDMONTON







An Edmonton pediatrician has been recognized for her work in Aboriginal communities.

Dr. Lola Baydala was honoured with a Community Scholar Award from the University of Alberta during a recent event held at Edmonton’s City Hall.

This marked the first year the university handed out its Community Connections Awards. Awards for community leader and University of Alberta advocacy were also presented.

The university launched the awards campaign this past October with a call for nominees. A total of 50 individuals were nominated for the three awards.  Baydala was one of 10 nominees for the Community Scholar Award.

Baydala, who is also an associate professor at the University of Alberta, has been working on a project which is a cultural adaptation, implementation and evaluation of a substance abuse and violence prevention program for school-aged children.

The project is a partnership with Baydala and her colleagues at the U of A, the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation and the Maskwacis Cree Nation, which comprises Samson, Louis Bull, Montana and Ermineskin.

“The only reason this is working is because of everybody involved,” Baylada  said, adding Elders in various communities and other members of her research team deserve their share of praise. “These awards are never about one person. It’s always a team effort.”

Anastasia Lim, the executive director of university relations, said Baydala was a deserving recipient. Lim said all the others that were nominated for the Community Connections Award were chosen because of their accomplishments within the city.

Lim added Baydala stood out from the other nominees for a particular reason.

“She had a farther reaching impact other than just in Edmonton,” Lim said.

The awards selection committee consisted of 11 members.
Lim also further praised Baydala’s efforts.

“Everything she does is great,” she said. “She went above and beyond what her usual job is.”

Baydala’s work in Aboriginal communities has been previously honoured. Two years ago the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation gave her the honorary name of Wagcheshi Wiya, which translates into Brave Hearted Woman.

Though she is not Aboriginal, Baydala said it was only natural to build some connections with Aboriginals. Early on in her medical practice many of her patients were Aboriginal.

“I felt a need to learn more about them to have a better understanding of them and to provide better care for their communities,” she said.

To that end a decade ago she began a culturally adopted program to serve the needs of her Aboriginal patients. The program was established after consultations with Elders, parents, teachers, students and administrators, allowing them to provide input, including their beliefs and protocols.

Upon being welcome and trusted in Aboriginal communities, Baydala was able to convince officials in those communities of the importance of research and evaluations. She also was able to stress the importance of how research outcomes can be utilized to ensure program sustainability.

Baydala assisted in the research writings as well as with the grant writing proposals of various Aboriginal projects.

“I think a really important thing is that it creates community development,” she said of her work. “And it allows communities to do future work independently. I think that’s where the value is.”

Baydala also helped co-ordinate opportunities for Aboriginals to present the results of research done in their communities at local, national and international workshops and meetings.

The other Community Connections Award winners were Sharon Morsink and Renee Vaugeois.

Morsink, who won the community leader award, helps run the University of Alberta observatory. Vaugeois, the university’s advocacy award recipient, is an alumni of the school and director of Edmonton’s John Humphrey Centre, a leader in human rights awareness.