Dr. Esther Tailfeathers wins Dr. Thomas Dignan Indigenous Health Award

Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada

August 21, 2019

Originally published June 21, 2019

Royal College Staff: Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada

Esther Tailfeathers, MD, CCFP didn’t initially plan a career in medicine.

“I didn’t think I had the capacity to do it,” she says. “So I ended up doing a Native Studies degree, which was really important to me at the time.”

But things changed in 1987.

She was living in Norway when her brother, a third-year medical student at the University of Alberta and the medical school’s first self-identified Indigenous student, was killed in a car accident.

“We had talked on the phone a week before and he said, ‘Es, you really need to try medicine. It’s really rewarding and you can do it.’” He stressed the need for more Indigenous people in health care.

“I came home for the funeral and realized how necessary it was to have our own physicians and our own people doing medical work—nurses, doctors—because they understand the living situation and the health of our people,” she says.

The AMA advances patient-centered, quality care by advocating for and supporting physician leadership and wellness.