Fisher River Cree Nation medical graduate hopes others follow in her footsteps

Brooke Cochrane has become the first woman from Fisher River Cree Nation to become a doctor and wants to be a role model for Indigenous youth who choose the same path.

“I am so honoured to be able to be an Indigenous woman entering into medicine,” said Cochrane.

“[I’m the] first in my family, the first in Fisher River, to bring that familiar face to Indigenous peoples in medicine.” 

Cochrane graduated this month from the University of Manitoba’s Max Rady College of Medicine.

Cochrane, whose mom is from Peguis First Nation, about 40 kilometres north of Winnipeg, and whose dad is from nearby Fisher River, said she didn’t see a lot of Indigenous people in the profession when she was growing up. Now she is encouraging more Indigenous people to pursue a career in the health care field.

“I understand the importance of health care professionals being able to reflect the population that they serve, and in Manitoba, we have a large population of Indigenous people,” said Cochrane. 

“And so I hope that by myself moving into medicine as well as my other Indigenous colleagues, I hope that that helps to create a safer space for Indigenous people to access medicine and receive culturally safe and trauma-informed care to improve health outcomes for Indigenous peoples in medicine.”

Next up she begins her two-year residency in family medicine at Boundary Trails Health Centre in Winkler, Man.

She said she was inspired to go into medicine after seeing some of the health care disparities that people in Fisher River faced, most notably her grandfather, who is diabetic.

“He has to travel a lot back and forth between Fisher River and Winnipeg, and Fisher River doesn’t have medical services right on reserve,” said Cochrane. 

“I want to be that person to bring health care services back to communities so that people don’t have to travel long distances.”

Importance of mentors

Cochrane said she was able to complete her education journey with the help and support of her community, and especially Dr. Sara Goulet.

“It has made a world of difference,” said Cochrane of her mentorship. 

“I felt other people knew what was going on and I was a little bit lost at times, I felt a lot of imposter syndrome . . .  And so seeing her, just a strong Indigenous woman being amazing in medicine and holding leadership positions and being such an advocate for her patients, was so impactful for me.”

Goulet, who is Métis from Winnipeg, is the associate dean of admissions for the Max Rady College of Medicine and mentors Indigenous students who go through the program.

She said there is a growing number of Métis students in the program, and that First Nations and Inuit are underrepresented with an average of about one or two students each year. She said it’s important for them to have mentors.

Dr. Sara Goulet is Metis and the associate dean of admissions for the Max Rady College of Medicine. She said the school is working to recruit more Indigenous students into the program. (Paul J. Misseghers, MPC Belle Art Portrait)

“I think there’s a unique relationship and support that can be afforded to our medical students from other Indigenous health care providers,” said Goulet.

“To be an Indigenous person working in health care can be tough. We see a lot of things that maybe don’t align with our values as Indigenous people and having that kind of ability to have mentors who understand our indigenous ways of knowing and where we’re coming from, I think is helpful.”

Cochrane said she would like to practise in her home community in the future.