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Remembering Dr. Thomas Dignan

 January 22, 2021

Remembering Dr. Thomas Dignan

McMaster MD Class of 1981

Message from Dr. Bernice Downey, Associate Dean, Indigenous Health, FHS

On the recent passing of Dr. Tom Dignan.

Dr. Thomas Dignan, a Mohawk physician from the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory was known by many in Indigenous, nursing, medical and health professional networks. He has been described as a ‘pioneer’, a trailblazer and a healthcare leader in his field. His varied work and volunteer experiences attest to these accolades.

He graduated as a nurse initially and worked in both urban and First Nations outpost environments. He was also the inaugural President of the Canadian Indigenous Nursing Association. In 1981, he completed the medicine program at McMaster University as the inaugural First Nations graduate. His medical career as a primary care physician included a focus in emergency medicine within both urban and northern rural and on-reserve communities.

He was a life-long learner, a strong advocate of system reform in health science education and a beacon of support for those of us working in this oft challenging field. To see him at the table among non-Indigenous leaders and decision-makers, provided a measure of safety and confidence that our own voice would not be lost in the discussion. That we would engage and push back together in solidarity in the pursuit of equity in both health science education for Indigenous learners and health services and programs for Indigenous people. He will be dearly missed. We wish him well on his journey to the Spirit World and our thoughts and prayers here among our McMaster community are with his family at this time.


The family asks that any donations in Tom’s honour be directed to the First Nations University of Canada or the Indspire Foundation.



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