Rotation Spotlight: Sioux Lookout

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Lake and trees under cloudy sky

Located four hours northwest of Thunder Bay, Sioux Lookout is a small Ontario village of approximately 5,000 people located on Treaty 3 lands. The rotation experience features local independent pharmacies that offer a wide array of services and includes opportunities to travel to remote Indigenous communities of Treaty 9 (northwest of Sioux Lookout) alongside the physicians who care for those patient populations. Treaty 9 is comprised of both Ojibwe and Cree First Nations Peoples.

Sioux Lookout rotation is a unique, high-collaborative rotation experience where students serve a majority Indigenous patient population. In this article, the Regional Clinical Coordinator and a local preceptor explain what makes Sioux Lookout a one-of-a-kind experience for students and practitioners alike.

Angela Heintzman, Regional Clinical Coordinator for Thunder Bay

Angela Heintzman smilingHow was the Sioux Lookout rotation established?

“Back in 2018, I was one of two pharmacists traveling to towns in northwestern Ontario providing academic detailing to physicians and other health care providers. Of all the places I went, Sioux Lookout was the most welcoming community we visited.

Local health care providers connected me with the pharmacist at Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre, the local hospital and regional health care center, for a tour, then took me for a tasty dinner of walleye (a big fish) at one of the local lodges. The hospital pharmacist mentioned she had been approached by multiple programs in the Sioux Lookout area for help with medication education.

The first pair of pharmacy students who supported these programs taught local allied health professionals about suboxone, benzodiazepaines and other meds. They were also invited by Chief and Counsel to Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (also known as Big Trout Lake or KI, a remote fly-in community north of Sioux Lookout) to provide education to workers at the remote child services site.”

What’s unique about Sioux Lookout?

“Sioux Lookout has a rich Indigenous culture, and its name stems from the Sioux Mountain, which was used by the Ojibwe to watch for any oncoming Sioux warriors. It is a hub for medical learners from the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. Pharmacy students have the opportunity to work within an interdisciplinary team and showcase their pharmaceutical knowledge.

The community is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a multitude of lakes, rivers, breathtaking scenery, and recreation opportunities. Pharmacy students have a unique opportunity to practice their full scope and help patients not only in Sioux Lookout, but in remote, fly-in communities accessible only by air or seasonal winter roads.

Many of these communities lack adequate access to health care professionals and services. They appreciate student assistance, and the ultimate reward for the student is the feeling of accomplishment knowing that you have made a difference in patient health outcomes.”

Nigam Parikh, Preceptor and Pharmacy Manager at RxDrug Mart in Sioux Lookout

On being a preceptor

“As a pharmacist and pharmacy student in southern Ontario, I felt that I was taught inadequate amounts of history throughout my education regarding Indigenous people and the generational inequalities that have caused them to be placed in the grouping of a marginalized community. This, coupled with the decreased level of service that is given to the Indigenous population throughout the health-care system, made me want to participate as a preceptor for UW students, to expose budding pharmacists to this population.”

What’s unique to a Sioux Lookout rotation?

“There is a culture of interprofessional collaboration in this community that is unmatched. All prescribers in the region know the pharmacists by name and are willing to have comprehensive consultations to improve patient outcomes. Also, pharmacists are seen as accessible HCPs when patients need assistance.

Given that NIHB (the insurance provider for all Indigenous people) recognizes pharmacists as prescribers for OTC items and are willing to pay for these items, pharmacists are given the unique opportunity to practice to the full scope of their education. This, in turn, provides patients the ability to have care delivered to them in a timely manner without the usual barriers to healthcare that are found in traditional urban centres.

In Sioux Lookout, our Indigenous community is not provided the best healthcare as recruiting HCPs to rural areas such as Sioux Lookout is a challenge. If anyone feels like they want to have a more meaningful impact as a pharmacist, I believe that smaller towns such as Sioux Lookout provide that option. It would help improve the lives and health of a marginalized community that is still struggling with the most basic of expectations such as readily available clean drinking water.”

Read more about the student experience in Sioux Lookout: