Portraits honour the stories of Indigenous MD graduates 

portrait<br />
by Anishinaabe and Kanienkehaka artist, Elliott<br />

At NOSM University’s inaugural convocation ceremony on May 26, 2023, and as a recipient of the CIBC Indigenous Learner Leadership Award, Dr. Ryan McConnell was presented with a striking portrait by Anishinaabe and Kanienkehaka artist, Elliott Doxtater-Wynn, a member of Bay of Quinte Mohawk who grew up in Six Nations of the Grand River. The portrait is large—four feet by three feet—and incorporates imagery from the graduate’s personal stories. 


Each year, two self-identified Indigenous learners are selected as recipients of the CIBC Indigenous Learner Leadership Award. Each is provided with $20,000 and a professional development budget and supported them with networking resources during their fourth year of MD studies.


“It was an honour to receive the CIBC Indigenous Learner Leadership Award and the portrait,” says Dr. McConnell, who, like Doxtater-Wynn, is a member of Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte. “Although there was such a great sense of community growing up and so much support at home, I think a lot of Indigenous kids don’t see medicine as a pathway. Being selected for the Indigenous Learner Leadership Award was icing on the cake and is something for which I’m very proud of and grateful.” 

The CIBC Indigenous Learner Leadership Award was established in 2021 to recognize fourth-year MD students who have demonstrated leadership qualities within the Indigenous community at NOSM University. It is part of a $150,000 donation from CIBC to promote and recognize Indigenous learner leadership and mentorship.  


Artist Doxtater-Wynn also says that he felt “honoured” to be involved. He wanted the artworks to celebrate the graduates. “It’s a major accomplishment for an individual to become a doctor,” he says. “Thinking of the grandeur of what their accomplishment was, I wanted to create something that could be an heirloom, and something that would reflect their story when they go into their own practice. I felt that the best way to honour the students for their achievements was to do something on a large scale.”


With a background in Indigenous storytelling, Indigenous knowledge, and education, Doxtater-Wynn conducted interviews with both physicians prior to painting their portraits. Doxtater-Wynn also researched and incorporated teachings specific to the graduates’ heritages; for Dr. McConnell, these included the History of Six Nations, Dish with One Spoon Wampum, Kanienkahaka, Tree of Peace, The Great Law, and The Eclipse and the 50 Chiefs.  

NOSM University’s inaugural convocation<br />
ceremony on May 26, 2023

Dr. Tara Wilson from Constance Lake First Nation was also honoured with a portrait. Wilson and Doxtater-Wynn spoke with CBC Radio about the award and the artwork 

Dr. McConnell says he finds the inclusion of his story to be meaningful: “For me, the most special part is the integration of my family. Along the bottom of the painting Elliott was able to integrate photos of my dad and I, my mom and I, and of my siblings. That personal touch was appreciated. There are also pieces of symbolism that represent my community. Elliott was able to integrate the hydro lines that are in our backyard and the shoreline of the Bay of Quinte.” 


Dr. McConnell will complete a Family Medicine Residency. “Being an Indigenous physician is something I don’t take for granted. I hope I can be a role model for kids in my community and other Indigenous kids across Canada. I think more Indigenous representation in medicine is a good thing. I hope I can be part of a culture of change,” Dr. McConnell says. 

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