Dr. Nadine Caron, a physician and surgeon, will be recognized for her outstanding achievements with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) at its June 7 Convocation ceremonies.
When Caron started university in 1988, recruited as a star basketball player, she wasn’t sure where it would take her. The main goal was to put the ball through the hoop, however, she soon set her sights far beyond the gym. She earned a gold medal as Simon Fraser University’s top undergraduate student.
Caron is the daughter of an Ojibwe mother, who was a teacher, and an Italian immigrant father, who continues to work as a mason.
“My parents made it abundantly clear that education was the key to success.”
And Caron stepped up, earning many accolades. She is the first female First Nations graduate of UBC’s School of Medicine (and UBC’s top student that year) and the first female First Nations general surgeon in Canada, named one of Maclean’s magazine's 100 Canadians to Watch.
While pursuing her surgical residency, she also completed her Master of Public Health degree at Harvard.
“The hands-on side of clinical practice is what set me on my path,” she said. “I love being a physician and surgeon, meeting people in the hospital and clinic. It’s such an honour to hear their stories, not just about their health, but to get a glimpse of the lives they lead.”
She is passionate about health policy and internationally renowned for her advocacy work to address the special health needs of rural, remote, northern, and Indigenous communities. The research projects she is involved in reflect the focus of her practice.
“In Prince George, I am surrounded by people who understand the voices of these people. My research examines issues, trends, and barriers faced by these communities, so that similar populations can learn from it. Through research, I can help people I will never meet, but whom I have compassion and respect for.”
Caron is also an associate professor in UBC’s Northern Medical Program, and co-director of the UBC Centre for Excellence in Indigenous Health, and an associate faculty member at Johns Hopkins Centre for American Indian Health. In addition to her teaching duties, she coaches sports teams in the community of Prince George.
“I am where I am because of coaches, instructors, professors, mentors, and I believe in giving back. In my life, I found athletics to be the key to my future success. When you’re young, you think it’s about putting the ball in the hoop, but through sports I also learned about perseverance, goal setting, teamwork, and experiencing defeat and bouncing back from it. Those are life skills! Through sport, I was surrounded by dedicated, motivated people who inspired me.”
Caron also mentors medical students and resident physicians.
Being a leader, an Indigenous woman, and achieving so many ‘firsts’ in her field means that many people look to her as a role model.
“We are all role models, all the time,” she said. “Our actions and behaviours set expectations as to what is possible. Society never shuts its eyes. Our children are always watching. How you walk and the footsteps you leave is your legacy.”
“This honorary doctorate means that UFV is inviting me to be part of a community of people who value education. I like the community focus and responsiveness of UFV, and am very excited about visiting the campus and learning more about it.”
Caron will receive her honorary doctorate at UFV’s afternoon Convocation ceremony at 2:30 pm on June 7 at the Abbotsford Centre.