e-Health 2023 Closing Keynote

The digital health perspective: Inequality in the health care system and solutions for equity-deserving populations.

Tuesday, May 30 from 4:00 – 5:00 pm ET. This presentation is sponsored by Novartis.

Our keynote speaker Dr. James Makokis focuses on bringing awareness to racial and gender equality within the healthcare system. It is clear that the current health care system needs to change: complaints procedures need to be culturally safe, patient-focused, trauma-informed and most importantly, restorative actions need to occur when adverse events are reported. To improve Indigenous health, adequate financial resources and investments must be made to develop health care infrastructure, including rebuilding the Indigenous health systems decimated by federal legislation since Confederation. Leaving health care provision to the provinces and territories without proper quality control measures will only lead to more of the same.

Dr. Makokis will share his unique experience of growing up in a segregated First Nation Community in Northern Alberta, as well as his experience as a doctor at Kehewin Health Centre, North East of Edmonton, Alberta. He will teach the history of how we got to where we are now and identify strategies on what still needs to be improved for the different types of circumstances to increase the health of equity-deserving populations.



    Dr. James Makokis leads one of North America’s most progressive family medical clinics serving both LGBTQ2S and First Nation peoples from all over Canada. Dr. James Makokis is a national and internationally recognized leader and author in the area of Indigenous health and transgender health. Recently named to “The Medical Post’s 2021 Power List,” Dr. Makokis believes that power should be shared, especially with those who have been disempowered. His philosophy of leadership is based on Nehiyô iyintiw wiyasiwewina (Cree Natural Laws) including kisewatisiwin (kindness), kwayask itatisiwin (honesty), sohkeyitamowin (strength/determination), and pahkwenamatowin (sharing) as taught to him by his Elders.

    He is a proud Cree, Two-Spirit physician from Saddle Lake First Nation in Northern, AB and known as one of Canada’s most progressive doctors and experts on numerous topics. Through his work, he is on a mission to serve marginalized populations and to change the outcomes for Indigenous and LGBTQ2S Peoples. Dr. James Makokis and his partner Anthony Johnson were crowned winners of the Amazing Race Canada Season 7, where they received international recognition for their advocacy of marginalized individuals by making the world aware of the impact of discrimination and the mistreatment of anyone labelled as being “different”. They both currently reside on Treaty 6 Territory outside of Edmonton.

    He faced many challenges earlier on in establishing his career as an Indigenous doctor. Being Two-Spirit, from a small segregated and poverty-stricken community, forced him to prove himself, try to ignore hurtful statements against him, and develop coping strategies to manage systematic and social forms of discrimination. His success as a doctor is in large part his down-to-earth approach with his patients, as he can easily empathize with them and the challenges they face before providing his medical advice. He was also mentored by many Canadian and Indigenous leaders along his path, which gave him unique insights into a wide variety of issues that people face around the world and in Canada. Dr. James Makokis has travelled alongside former Governor General Michaëlle Jean on a diplomatic mission to Brazil and also had the rare opportunity to work next to Dr. Patch Adams in the Amazon Jungle.

    He has received international attention and recognition for his holistic approach to medicine and his advocacy for human rights. He is also one of the few doctors that combine traditional Cree medicine and Western medicine within his practice. Known for his compassion, numerous accomplishments and his unique insights, Dr. James Makokis has inspired all types of Canadians to challenge stereotypical and often discriminating views towards First Nation and LGBTQ2S Peoples. He has won numerous awards, sat on many boards and councils, and continues to give back to his communities in any way he can. Through his work and his previous contributions, he continues to break down stigmas and identify the societal structures and forces of oppression that LGBTQ2S and Indigenous populations face.

    Dr. James Makokis wanted to be a doctor since he was four years old. It was during his education that he decided to focus on LGBTQ2S and Indigenous health so that he could make a difference for those often left out of the healthcare system and society as a whole. The attitudes and discrimination individuals he serves face within the health care system and in their personal lives, often leads to his patients being marginalized and underserved through the imbalance of trust, access and service for their health. He is here and on a mission to create real change by serving marginalized populations and rebuilding relationships with those who have are often left behind.

    He earned his Master’s in health science from the University of Toronto in 2006 and graduated from the University of Toronto’s medical school in 2010 and the University of British Columbia’s Aboriginal Family Medicine Residency Training Program in 2012. He is also trained in family medicine and trans health. He is dedicated to continuing to save lives through his medical practice and his unique approach to medicine. Dr. Makokis worked as an instructor at the Yellowhead Tribal College, the University of Toronto, and the University of Alberta, teaching courses on Indigenous health, Indigenous cultural practices, and traditional medicine. He also received certification from the Aboriginal Family Medicine Training Program and served as the Spokesperson for the National Aboriginal Health Organization’s Role Model Program for many years.

    He shares a wide range of his personal experiences, areas of expertise, Indigenous knowledge and his compassionate understandings with audiences for his quest to serve others and bring measurable change within the nation. Dr. James Makokis feels a calling to share the struggles and challenges of individuals and communities that are often left behind.

    As a speaker, Dr. Makokis shares his family history, Indigenous history, real-life examples from his patients, and his personal experience within his presentations. His focus is to help us all celebrate each person’s uniqueness while showing us all how to improve ourselves so that we can be in the best position to positively impact others, for the larger contribution of the human experience.


    Victoria Tenasco-Commanda, Program Consultant, Indigenous Health, Canadian Institute for Health Information

    Victoria Tenasco-Commanda is Algonquin-Anishinabe from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, Quebec. She was born and raised in her community and spent much of her young life with her grandparents Mary and William Commanda. As a lifelong learner, Victoria continues on an academic journey and is currently pursuing a PhD in Education from the University of Ottawa where her research focuses on the cultural revitalization of Anishinabe birthwork in the context of cultural safety and antiracism. She actively pursues her equally important Algonquin-Anishinabe education by learning about her pimàdjiwowin (culture) and anishinabemowin (language) whenever possible. Victoria is a Program Consultant with the Indigenous Health team at CIHI where she heads the work on Indigenous Cultural Safety and Humility.


    Novartis is reimagining medicine to improve and extend people’s lives. We deliver high-value medicines that alleviate society’s greatest disease burdens through technology leadership in R&D and novel access approaches. The Novartis BIOME is a catalyst for impactful digital collaboration and unites the best of science and technology to create better healthcare solutions and patient experiences at scale. The BIOME reinforces Novartis’s commitment to partner with the entire health ecosystem to jointly innovate and co-develop digital solutions.

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