History PhD candidate wins AMS Doctoral Completion Award

Friday, January 21, 2022

Congratulations to Lucy Vorobej, a History PhD candidate, for winning a national Doctoral Completion Award from the Associated Medical Services (AMS) History of Medicine and Healthcare Program.

Lucy Vorobej
Vorobej’s dissertation titled ‘“By Their Own Efforts”: First Nations Health Policy in Canada, 1945-1980’ is situated during the post-war period of integration and looks at the development and implementation of First Nations health policy. Her research considers how race and the objectives of settler colonialism impacted debates regarding jurisdiction, affected the nature of health services offered to First Nations peoples, and limited the creation of meaningful partnerships with First Nations leaders.

Providing context for her research, Vorobej said: “With a focus on socio-political contexts as a determinant of Indigenous health, my research aims to nuance understanding of how social identities adapt to changing social circumstances, as well as reveal the colonial structures and mindsets that limited the effectiveness of Indigenous health policy in the post-war era. I believe that without the marriage of historical consciousness and contemporary policy planning and action, stereotypes will persist, and disparities of ill-health will incorrectly appear inevitable. Current health concerns require a deep understanding of historical policy development and effective policy today needs a clear understanding of the shared history of colonization.”

Reflecting on the implications of Vorobej’s work, her supervisor Heather MacDougall, Associate Professor Emerita in the Department of History said: “Lucy Vorobej's thesis fills an important gap in Canadian health policy history because the period from 1945-1980 has not been studied through the lens of Critical Race Theory. Deeply embedded racialization, old stereotypes, and uncritical acceptance of settler/white dominance meant that 'integration' for citizenship and equal access to healthcare services remained political rhetoric not policy. Given the prominence of First Nations issues on the national political agenda, this thesis will provide contemporary scholars, politicians, policy makers, activists and Indigenous health care providers with the historical knowledge essential to make more effective and culturally appropriate choices.”

Vorobej’s research objectives included: 1) establishing the extent of racialization of First Nations peoples in Canadian politics in the post-war era, 2) evaluating how this racialization informed the development of the First Nations health policy, 3) historicizing the jurisdictional debates about First Nations health care between the federal government and Ontario, 4) and demonstrating the failures of politicians to establish worthwhile partnerships with First Nations communities to develop community-directed health services.

The goal of AMS is to draw attention to the History of Medicine, broaden its research scope, and shape how the subject matter is taught. Of the selection process, AMS has said, “These outstanding individuals, chosen by an expert review panel, will certainly enhance the scope of History of Medicine research in Canada and beyond, and act as a source of lessons that could positively shape Canadian healthcare.”