Dr. Alexandra King, University of Saskatchewan
Can you describe your area of research and how it is helping address a health-related issue in Saskatchewan?
As a First Nation physician, my practice is grounded in Indigenous philosophy, with a focus on care for HIV/AIDS, HCV and related conditions, for which First Nation, Inuit, and Métis people bear a disproportionate burden. In Saskatchewan, HIV and HCV rates are especially high among Indigenous people, so my work aims to address this inequity. I am a Principal Investigator on various Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) research grants related to Indigenous people and HIV, HCV and co-infections. Other research interests include Indigenous wellness and Indigenous research ethics. My team and I try to re-vision an Indigenous version of community-based research so it is centred on Indigenous ancestral wisdom and lived experience, and Indigenous research philosophies and methodologies. I have co-created intervention research that is grounded in Indigenous epistemology, culture and wellness.
What are the most rewarding aspects of your work?
I find collaborative creativity the most rewarding aspect of my work. As a team, we have successfully brought together diverse expertise, from that which developed from living and lived experience to that which developed in classrooms and through books. We also have Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Holders who share their wisdom, teachings and visions. We embrace reciprocal capacity strengthening where we appreciate that everyone has gifts, and also has areas in which we can grow, and so we collectively create an environment where we can learn from each other and be guiding each other. It is in this environment that I see creativity flourish, and truly innovative solutions-oriented research occur.
What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
What I find the most challenging aspect of our work is decolonizing – our minds, our hearts, our work – and grounding ourselves in Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing. Western epistemology, axiology and ontology are inherent to so many of processes, our approaches, our methodologies. This is why our SHRF application is so important as it’ll provide us with critical resources with which we can explore and further develop Indigenous research approaches.
How did you first become interested in this area of research? What inspires you to do the work that you do?
I used to work in software development, and it was a wonderful environment, but it was a state of impermanence; whatever we were doing was going to be replaced by something else. I thought perhaps I should be putting my energy, passion and love into something else. When I was younger, I dreamt of being a doctor, so I decided to give it a try. I am inspired by the communities and people my team and I work with, by the Elders, the Knowledge Holders, the people with lived and living experience, who have so much to teach us. I am also inspired by the positive impact our research can have on Indigenous people in Canada, because we aim to leave the participants in our research in a better place.
Where is your research headed in the next five years?
We are developing more land- and culture-based research, with a focus on communities in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Much of our work will continue to be with women and Two-Spirit people, including with mothers who are living with or at risk of HIV, and women in the penal system, as well as those living in rural and remote communities. The next steps in Indigenous health research should focus on more decolonization of the healthcare system and research, providing more space for Indigenous worldviews, ceremony, methodology and voices.
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