Volume 10 • 2023 • Issue 1

The Intersection of Settler and Indigenous Cultures After working in the communities for seven years, in 2012, Dr. McKinstry began a part-time BA degree with a major in native studies and minor in sociology. “I was exploring what it meant to me to be First Nation,” she says. “I wanted to know why my life as a child was so different from the lives of other Canadians.” As well, she had questions about the impact that she was having in the communities where she worked. When she started out, she wanted to contribute to positive oral health changes in the lives of her patients, but, over the course of several years, she felt that she was failing the communities. “I wondered why I couldn’t make a difference in the community. I was still referring children off-site for surgery at hospitals,” Dr. McKinstry says. When she had the opportunity to complete a masters in public health specifically focused on Indigenous Peoples Health at the University of Victoria, (UVic) she took it, and put the BA on hold. “It was less part of my educational journey than my personal one,” she says. “Indigenous history in Canada was one of the biggest lessons that I needed to learn. My father was involved in a residential school, but he never talked about it. I feel that his and his siblings’ experience in the residential school system had a huge impact on my childhood, and contributed to the lack of opportunities that my family had, especially after my grandfather served in the army during WWII.” During her time at UVic, where she did research on cultural safety and reconciliation in dentistry, Dr. McKinstry began to feel more strongly that the most effective way for her to help Indigenous communities was to work with children. “I’d always loved interacting with children anyway, it was where my heart always was,” she says. When Dr. Lekic suggested that she attend the masters in pediatric dentistry at the U of M, as he did every year, Dr. McKinstry said yes in 2017. Dr. McKinstry’s thesis was related to the oral health experience of First Nations children requiring treatment under general anesthesia for early childhood caries. “My research was founded on qualitative research, specifically grounded theory. It happened to be the first qualitative research study to be successfully completed for the Master of Dentistry pediatric program at the U of M, thanks to my supervisors, Dr. Andrew Hatala and Dr. Robert Schroth,” she says. “And in many ways it validated what we already knew from existing research, and from working in communities for 12 years.” The study’s findings were that there were many access to care issues in First Nations communities in Manitoba. For example there was no dentist available in the community, or the dentist was too busy to see everyone that needed to be seen during their short time in the community. It also found that access to oral hygiene aids was a barrier to oral health because toothpaste and toothbrushes were expensive or difficult to obtain. Dr. McKinstry says that she asked about fluoridated water as part of her research. “And then later, I realized that some of the families I was interviewing had water delivered to their homes and stored in cisterns or kept water in buckets,” she says. “Further research revealed that some of the communities in Manitoba can go for days or weeks without water. Lack of fluoridation was the least of their concerns.” Importantly, her research findings touched on Indigenousspecific racism in dentistry in Canada. “This is relevant in contemporary Canadian health care, as professionals, we have come to learn following the tragic death of Joyce Echaquan that Indigenous-specific racism is embedded in all aspects of health care from Canada’s deep roots of colonialism,” Dr. McKinstry says. Echaquan, a member of the Stepping out of the clinic at the University of Manitoba. 25 Issue 1 | 2023 | Issues and People