A tight-knit group of Schulich Medicine students celebrated their academic achievements at Western University‘s virtual Indigenous Student Graduation Ceremony on Friday.
Four of the those graduating were members of “A Tribe Called Med,” a group of Indigenous students studying medicine at Western.
Recent graduate and member Erik Mandawe says he, the other three members and the rest of the group were a “family.”
“We’re Indigenous people who have jumped through the institutional hoops in order to get where we currently find ourselves,” Mandawe told 980 CFPL.
“Having that connection throughout that process has been key, and it’s been one of the most important parts of my training.”
The four members are from different parts of Canada and were brought together by upper-year student Cheyenne LaForme.
“We call Cheyenne ‘Indig-e-mom,'” Mandawe said. “She really looked after us and helped with the transition, making sure we were all comfortable in the new space, but also providing a sense of a family embarking on this four-year journey.”
LaForme met each of them separately while giving tours on introduction day. Once they were accepted into the Doctor of Medicine program, LaForme added their names to a group chat.
A Tribe Called Med was inspired by the band A Tribe Called Red.
From sending memes to having heart-to-heart discussions, Mandawe says the group always supported one another.
“When things were hard, my friends were there, the tribe was there.”
At the graduation ceremony on Friday, the group wore special stoles made by Tammy Beauvais and gifted to each Indigenous graduate by the Western Indigenous Student Centre.
White stoles acknowledge the completion of an undergraduate degree, silver a professional degree and gold a professional or doctorate degree.
“The ceremony was a really special event,” Mandawe said. “Part of the Indigenous graduation is acknowledging that, ‘yes, you learned this, but you’ve also brought so much to this space.'”
Mandawe will be heading out to Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia to train in plastic and reconstructive surgery.
“I’m going to miss everybody but I know it’s not an ending. I know that I can always reach out to them, the same way we have over these past four years.”
The three other members of A Tribe Called Med who graduated on Friday are Shanté Blackmore, Justine Fletcher and Marcy Maracle.