Portrait of Pharmacist Jon Hunchuck

Pharmacist Jon Hunchuck says cultural competency training adds greater richness to his approach to patient care.

When the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy announced new scholarships for Black and Indigenous students in September 2020, many faculty and staff took the opportunity to support the initiative through financial donations. Jon Hunchuck (PharmD 1T0), Adjunct Lecturer and Academic Co-Director of the International Pharmacy Graduate Program, saw this as a way to help make meaningful change in the academic health sciences setting.

“The opportunity to support the new scholarships arose at a time of personal and professional reflection,” said Hunchuck. “I had been changing and expanding my clinical practice and contributing to the scholarships was another way for me to act on the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action,” he said.

Cultural competency training adds “greater richness” to compassionate health care

A primary care pharmacist at the Sumac Creek Health Centre, one of five family health team clinics in Toronto affiliated with Unity Health and St. Michael’s Hospital, Hunchuck and other health care providers at the clinic have recently become more engaged in cultural competence training. In April 2019, Hunchuck and colleagues took the San’yas Anti-Racism Indigenous Cultural Safety Training Program that focuses on uprooting anti-Indigenous racism and promoting cultural safety for Indigenous people in Canada.

“If you can understand the context for those coming to care, the questions you ask and the compassion you show is more informed,” said Hunchuck, explaining that the San’yas program helped him better understand the trauma many Indigenous people have experienced and how that can result in a deficit in health. “I’m factoring in a bigger picture now and perhaps know more about what may have impacted someone’s life and this has grounded my clinical approach more. I’ve always strived to practice with compassion but there is a greater richness to this now.”

Making education more welcoming and accessible is an important step forward

Hunchuck points to the leadership of Dr. Suzanne Shoush, the first Indigenous Health Faculty Lead at the University of Toronto’s Department of Family and Community Medicine and an Indigenous family physician at Sumac Creek Health Centre, in helping guide the expansion of his clinical skills in this area. “Suzanne’s presence at the clinic has meant many Indigenous patients seek her out for care and I realized I needed to do this training to be a better care provider for the Indigenous patient group at our clinic,” said Hunchuck.

For Hunchuck, who is also cross appointed to U of T’s Department of Family and Community Medicine, the San’yas training marked the start of an ongoing commitment and investment in moving forward with the principles of Reconciliation. “And that circle expands to education,” he said. “Lowering financial barriers for students to pursue a career in pharmacy is an important step in making change and doing what’s possible to make our program more welcoming and accessible to more people.”

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