When Dr. Lucy Nickel was completing her medical training at the University of Saskatchewan, she was doing so without the numerous Aboriginal role models a lot of current students have to look up to in the medicine program.
A member of the Star Blanket First Nations, Nickel was one of the first students to graduate from the College of Medicine as a part of the Aboriginal Initiatives program – which, when she was studying, had three spots dedicated to Aboriginal students per class.
“The year that I went into medical school I was the only one in my class, but there were others ahead of me,” she said. “But there aren’t many people old enough to have been a role model for me.”
Now, however, Nickel is filling those shoes for the current class of Aboriginal medical students who have worked at her clinic.
“There are a lot of young kids in my practice who realize that yeah, they can be a doctor - they just have to work hard,” Nickel stressed. “Which is good because then they’re more likely to work with First Nations people, and they become role models themselves.”
Nickel, who had originally studied nursing before moving into medicine, credits a lack of nursing jobs in 1994 for her decision to go back to school, completed her residency in 2002 – and that same year she opened her own practice in Saskatoon.
“I did my residency here, which was two years, I did it at the U of S,” explained Nickel. “I finished that in 2002 and then I started working right away in Saskatchewan.”
When asked why she decided to continue to practice in Saskatchewan, Nickle was pragmatic – her husband worked in Saskatoon, and their two children have been raised here. But after a pause she continued with:
“It’s home, and I know that I can make a difference here.”
This story is Part 5 of a monthly series with SaskDocs profiling College of Medicine grads working in Saskatchewan.