May 29, 2024

Class of 2024: Indigenous graduate already has lifetime of experience caring for community

Tina Nash embarks on new chapter supporting rural Indigenous communities after graduating medical school
Tina Nash, ready for graduation.
Tina Nash, ready for graduation.

Dr. Tina Nash, MD, is excited to spend her retirement years bringing love, gratitude and spiritual healing to her patients as a family doctor. 

After working two full-time jobs while raising 11 children, one stepson and supporting seven grandchildren, Nash, 54, is focusing her advocacy and community building work on primary-care health access for Indigenous communities. 

“Providing care to Indigenous people in rural and remote areas was the vision that drew me to apply to medicine. The relationship is reciprocal, there is so much that comes back to you from the community when you serve as a doctor,” says Nash, who had a son graduate from the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) specializing in paediatrics in 2020.

After graduation, Nash is completing the University of Alberta’s Yellowknife Family Residence Program. Later, she plans to practice in rural and remote areas — maybe even her home territory of the Tahltan Nation, a region in Northwestern British Columbia that covers roughly 96,000 square kilometres. She was born in the community before moving to Calgary with her family at a young age after her father passed away.

Two decades in health care 

Nash has two decades’ experience in health care. At Alberta Health Services (AHS), she was a health promotion facilitator and is currently a family counsellor. She helped create AHS’s Indigenous Mental Health Program which she has continued to grow and support over the last 20 years. 

Nash maintained her role in mental health all through medical school. In fact, she worked two full-time jobs (and has for almost 20 years), spending weekdays in mental health and evenings and weekends in a leadership position in asset protection for Walmart in Calgary. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Master of Science in Community Health Sciences and a Master of Counselling. 

During medical school at the CSM, Nash participated in the University of Calgary Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship, an eight-month clerkship in a rural community. For her clerkship, Nash spent time serving the residents of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories and surrounding area.

Nash spent time considering what she wanted to do in her retirement and decided on the perfect option for her — become a family doctor. Nash says she always dreamed of being a physician, helping people improve their well-being.

“I was guided through the process by a passion and real love to serve people, to serve my community,” says Nash. “Family medicine is the best. It has a lot of everything generalist, mental health, liaising and building relationships with specialists, nurses, allied health professionals and much more.”

'The best medicine I can give patients is love'

Nash’s approach to practising medicine is informed by decades working in mental health in Alberta. She has a holistic view of wellness, encompassing mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being as the key to healing with love. She believes music, nature, ceremony and gratitude can feed our spirit and improve our mental and physical health.

“We are spiritual beings. We come from and connect to everything around us through spirit. I want to bring that into my medical practice.”

Nash says spirituality has been a driving force in her life, something she credits with helping her accomplish the dream of becoming a doctor. Approaching everything with gratitude helps. Citing the teachings of her Elders, Nash says, “Creator tasks everyone, and it’s our job, our part of the relationship, to get up and greet the day with gratitude first and then to go about our day and do our best with whatever is placed before us.” 

Nash family

Nash family, Christmas 2023. Tina Nash is in the middle row, second from right.

Courtesy Nash family

Advocate and changemaker

Woven through Nash’s life and career has been her commitment to Indigenous advocacy and accessibility. She has worked tirelessly to make the systems she is part of better and improve access to care.

"The ability to advocate is so important, for much-needed changes to Indigenous health, especially in rural and remote communities. It is important to me to advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous women and the need to improve the structures of society and health-care system to better protect equity-deserving groups,” says Nash. 

“There remains so much work to be done toward Truth and Reconciliation, to improve suicide prevention and disaster recovery programming.”

Nash has been a member of working groups and committees supporting rural and remote medicine, held leadership positions in organizations addressing anti-Indigenous racism as well as informing patient care and physician learning. This includes roles at the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada, the Alberta Medical Association, Health Sciences Association of Alberta, the National Union of Public and General Employees and more.

An inspiration and mentor

Over the years, Nash has had several patients say to her she was the first Indigenous physician they had ever met. She had an Indigenous nurse once say that she didn’t know it was possible to become a doctor. Experiences like these left her passionate about encouraging more Indigenous people, especially youth, to become health-care workers. 

Nash emphasizes the importance of connecting a passion for health care to traditional ways of being and knowing. For example, during hunting season, cleaning a moose carcass presents an opportunity to learn about anatomy while also strengthening connections to history and tradition. 

While family practice may have been her “retirement” plan, Nash says she will always advocate for her vision of the future of inclusive Indigenous family medicine, one that offers a holistic understanding of wellness, but also the interconnectedness of health to family, community and nation. 

“We all have physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of our being. Its time that medicine integrated these so that all patients can experience true holistic care and healing.”

She hopes to one day see an Indigenous-specific primary care centre supporting rural and remote Indigenous communities, including a broad spectrum of Indigenous health workers offering both Western and traditional Indigenous medicines. 

“You hear about new medical schools opening with an Indigenous Health focus or plans for an Indigenous health stream and it’s inspiring. It makes you want to do everything you possibly can.”

Read more inspiring stories about the accomplishments and journeys of the Class of 2024.

Graduates, as you prepare to transition away from student life, we'd like to also welcome you into the UCalgary alumni community. Learn about the programs, benefits and services available exclusively to UCalgary grads, and be sure to keep in touch.

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