Sask. doctor finding success with Comprehensive Indigenous Care Clinic model

WATCH ABOVE: A Saskatchewan doctor’s careful consideration of Indigenous culture has earned him the trust of many patients.

A Saskatchewan doctor has found success incorporating culture into health care from his own model of medicine.

The Comprehensive Indigenous Care Clinic (CICC) model was created and implemented by Dr. Joel Schindel two years ago.

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Initially offered in Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation as well as One Arrow First Nation, the clinics aim to provide a personalized and holistic approach to patient health care.

The success of the clinics within First Nations communities led to Schindel opening a once-per-week operation at Oskayak High School in Saskatoon. His weekly Wednesday clinics are primarily open to the students but are welcome to everyone.

“My approach has always been to very much let my patients feel comfortable telling me their story,” Schindel said. “Indigenous peoples haven’t had the privilege of feeling comfortable and confident telling their story without being seen as ‘the other.’”

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A Somali-Canadian, Schindel understands from a different perspective the importance and need of recognizing culture and spirituality in medicine.

Prenatal care, chronic disease management and elder services are just some of the fundamental elements that make up the CICC model. At Oskayak High School, a social worker and elder are on site to make patients feel more comfortable during their visits.

“It’s like a friend-to-friend relationship, it’s a personal relationship,” said Richard Gamble, a longtime patient of Schindel from Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation.

“He treats people with the utmost respect, people feel comfortable and they’re able to discuss things I’m sure normally they wouldn’t. Quite frankly, he’s a different kind of doctor as far as we’re concerned in the sense that he likes to really hone in on the individual’s problems.”

“I guess that’s why he’s won the confidence of a lot of our people, the way he treats people and respects our culture. If more doctors could look at it in that light, there’d be a lot more success.”

The Comprehensive Indigenous Care Clinic model aims to provide a personalized and holistic approach to patient health care.
The Comprehensive Indigenous Care Clinic model aims to provide a personalized and holistic approach to patient health care. Joel Schindel / Supplied

Taking time to understand a patient’s personal and medical history is pivotal in determining the next steps for a person’s healthcare in the CICC model. Helping each patient to understand their medical situation is also a high priority.

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“Health literacy is absolutely what we need to be focusing on with every visit. We need to be telling the person why we’re doing this, why do we feel this way would be better, not just going through a script,” Schindel said.

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Tina Thomas became aware of Schindel’s clinics roughly six months ago as she was in need of a new family doctor.

“He’s really a positive influence in my life of working on the issue rather than stuffing me with medication,” said Thomas, who reports her prescription intake has dramatically reduced in recent months.

“I was on so many medications when I got here. And to go down (in prescriptions), I’m super pumped, I want to do this. It gives me that burst of hope to live a healthier life.”

Schindel attributes the success of his clinics to the strong community partnerships he’s established through CICC.

“I want to give whatever I’ve learned from these communities, what they’ve taught me and what I’ve learned and basically pass that on to other healthcare providers or health sciences or other parts of society to say ‘this is what I’ve learned and this is how we can collaborate as communities,’” Schindel said.