Master of Science (MSc) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) opportunity -
Indigenous Healthy Life Trajectories Initiative

*Please note: this program will not be enrolling new students until further notice.

What is this opportunity?

The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council (NTC), the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) and researchers from the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) at Simon Fraser University (SFU) are recruiting one graduate student interested in pursuing a fully-funded MSc or PhD degree. This opportunity involves participating in the Indigenous Healthy Life Trajectories Initiative (I-HeLTI), a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) funded study, being led by Ms. Lynnette Lucas and the NTC. This maternal-child longitudinal cohort study is entitled “Hishuk-ish tsawalk (everything is one, everything is connected)” and uses a two-eyed seeing approach to conduct research aimed at optimizing healthy early life trajectories and wellbeing for Indigenous Peoples.

We are recruiting one (1) MSc or PhD Student in Indigenous Child Development and Biological Mechanisms of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) (click here for more information)

Our project explores the early origins of mental health problems (anxiety, depression, substance use and suicide) and cardio-metabolic problems (obesity, type-2 diabetes and heart disease) and the efficacy of existing NTC interventions starting at conception to reduce these health risks. To meet these goals, we use both Indigenous Knowledge and scientific methods. This work will involve establishing a longitudinal conception cohort within NTC communities, then tracking child and family wellness and health outcomes long-term. Concurrently, in addition, we will evaluate existing NTC early child health and parenting programs that aim to enhance child development and wellness and inform the development and evaluation of new programs.  

We are committed to building long-term capacity and creating new opportunities for Indigenous community members, students and researchers to obtain training and engage in advanced health knowledge creation, development of Indigenous Methodologies, public health and population health intervention development, evaluation, and surveillance, in preparation for future leadership roles.

Graduates will gain enhanced knowledge of Indigenous Methods and First Nations’ data governance. As well, graduates will gain knowledge and skills in the collection and laboratory-based analysis of biospecimens and Indigenous community-based research practices. Students will also be able to demonstrate the ability to apply these skills in “real work and community” settings such as the NTC Health Services units and the FNHA.

The students will earn an MSc or PhD in health sciences from SFU and will receive mentorship and training in First Nations’ approaches to research from the NTC, FNHA and community partners and knowledge holders.

Learn more information about MSc degrees in FHS

What will I learn?

To earn this MSc or PhD degree, you must successfully complete an original research study using the collection and laboratory-based analysis of biospecimens coupled with Indigenous community-based research practices. You will learn these methods through coursework and the practical experience of conducting your own original research.

You will also receive mentorship and training in Indigenous Methodologies, public health and population health intervention development, evaluation and surveillance through interactions with members of the NTC’s Health Services and the First Nations Health Authority. 

Who will my mentors be?

Your mentors are all co-leaders of the NTC-FNHA-SFU I-HeLTI project. All work at the NTC Health Services, and/or the FNHA and/or the SFU FHS. Mentors will help students to develop professional and scholarly skills and knowledge in research, policy and practice in Indigenous population health. You will also receive mentorship in the practice of Indigenous population health and information regarding service delivery at the NTC.

The I-HeLTI project leads are:

  • Lynnette Lucas (NTC Director of Health and Adjunct Professor, SFU FHS) leads the I-HeLTI project and brings her vast experience in child development interventions and Indigenous research methodologies aimed at improving health services for children and youth and promoting equitable access to health care services for Nuu-chah-nulth-aht.  
  • Jeannette Watts (Manager of NTC Nursing Services) brings extensive expertise in the Nuu-chah-nulth Nursing Framework, health interventions and Indigenous Health methodologies.
  • Ditidaht Elder Geraldine Tom, a Senior Wellness Worker in NTC Teechuktl (Mental Health) department’s Quu’asa program, which promotes mental and emotional healing for Residential School survivors and their families through traditional cultural and spiritual practices. Elder Geraldine, together with Ms. Lucas and Ms. Watts, will guide the design and implementation of the I-HeLTI project to ensure that it is consistent with Nuu-chah-nulth culture, beliefs and way of life.
  • Charlotte Waddell (Professor, SFU FHS) is a child and adolescent psychiatrist with longstanding interests in child and youth mental health; health policy; population and public health; prevention programs; improving links between research and policy to reduce mental health disparities, starting in childhood; and children’s rights.
  • Pablo Nepomnaschy (Associate Professor, SFU FHS), is the Director of the Maternal and Child Health Laboratory in FHS. He applies his expertise in human biology, endocrinology, epidemiology and developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD) to investigate the influence of stress on maternal and child health and subsequent health risks across the lifespan using  peri-conceptional cohort studies.
  • Jeff Reading (Scientific Director of the Centre for Collaborative Action on Indigenous Health Governance, Professor and FNHA Chair in Heart Health and Wellness, SFU FHS) is Mohawk from the Tyendinaga First Nation and a leading national and international expert with over 20 years of experience enhancing knowledge and research in Indigenous health. He has played a pivotal role in the introduction of Canadian ethics guidelines for Indigenous health research. He brings expertise in heart health and wellness, public and population health research, epidemiology, physiology, chronic disease prevention, health policy, and Indigenous research ethics.
  • Scott Venners (Associate Professor, SFU FHS) is an epidemiologist with extensive cross-cultural experience from living and working in West Africa and East Asia. His previous research work has been focused on molecular epidemiology and biomonitoring. His current focus is on integrated knowledge translation, Indigenous health research and promoting public policy that prevents chronic disease and reduces health inequalities in Canada. He has served as a member of the external advisory committee for the First Nations First Nations Regional Early Childhood, Education and Employment Survey at the FNHA.

Please click here for a list of all I-HeLTI team members.

What are the dates and location?

The student will begin in September 2022 and will be funded through to August 2024 (MSc) or August 2026 (PhD).

The student will take courses primarily at the SFU Burnaby campus, but might also take courses at the Vancouver or Surrey campuses. 

You will have the opportunity to receive additional mentorship at the NTC offices of Health Services in Port Alberni and the FNHA offices in Vancouver or West Vancouver. This may occur via online video-conferencing, respecting COVID-19 restrictions to ensure we keep our communities safe.

Although SFU is offering courses online due to current COVID-19 restrictions, we anticipate that this will not continue after the restrictions are lifted. For this reason, applicants should be able to live in the Vancouver region to take part in this program.

What financial support will I receive?

Through a combination of stipend and teaching assistantships, students will receive financial support equal to their tuition and fees plus $30,000/year for living expenses.

The student will receive financial support during each semester of full-time active enrollment in the MSc or PhD program at SFU up to a maximum of 6 academic terms (24 months) for the MSc or 12 academic terms (48 months) for the PhD.

Additionally, research-related costs will be paid by the CIHR I-HeLTI grant or other grants or awards

Who is eligible to apply for this program?

This project is committed to supporting the next generation of Indigenous scholars, so we ask that all Indigenous applicants self-identify in our recruitment processes.

Because valid research with Indigenous Peoples in BC requires deep understanding of cultures and contexts, we may give preference to qualified Indigenous applicants, especially those who self-identify as Indigenous from BC or provide evidence of close relationships and experience with Indigenous communities in BC (e.g. living  with an Indigenous community in BC).

All applicants must meet SFU minimum MSc or PhD degree and grade point average (GPA) requirements, which include:

MSc requirements: Academic standing of a minimum cumulative GPA of at least 3.0/4.33 (B), or a GPA of at least 3.33/4.33 (B+) based on the last 60 credits of undergraduate courses. All graduate work is also considered.

PhD requirements: Equivalent of an SFU's masters degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.5/4.33 or a bachelor's degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.5/4.33, or a GPA of at least 3.67/4.33 (A-) based on the last 60 credits of undergraduate coursework.All graduate work is also considered. To be admitted directly from a bachelor's degree you must complete at least 50% of the coursework units required for an FHS MSc degree.

More information can be found here. As described in the link, in exceptional circumstances, a student may be admitted with lower formal qualifications when there is significant professional or lived experience relevant to the proposed area of scholarship.

We do not require GMAT or GRE scores for this program.

Who can I contact if I have more questions?

For specific questions related to the MSc/PhD position, please contact Pablo Nepomnaschy at SFU at

For questions related to the application process, please contact Katrina Salvante at SFU at

For questions related to training at the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council or the Indigenous Healthy Life Trajectories Initiative (I-HeLTI), please contact Laurel White, I-HeLTI Project Coordinator at or 250-724-0202 ext. 9.

How do I apply?


Please do not apply directly to the SFU Faculty of Health Sciences until you are directed to do so. This is a three-step review and selection process.

At the first stage, the training team will review letters of intent and unofficial university transcripts and invite the strongest candidates to apply to the second stage.

The second stage of the process (by invitation only) will be to have a short phone interview with the training team.

The third stage of the process (by invitation only) will be to apply officially to SFU.  At this stage you will also need to request official transcripts for previous post-secondary education and two letters of reference to be sent directly to SFU.

Stage 1 Application Process

Stage 1 applications are due no later than 9:00 AM Pacific on November 15, 2021.

For stage 1, please send to Katrina Salvante at with the subject line: Application for I-HeLTI MSc or PhD Student::

  1. A statement of intent;
  2. Undergraduate (and/or graduate) transcripts (unofficial transcripts are fine).  The transcripts you submit must show all grades for courses you have taken at any post-secondary institutions (i.e. not only the institution where you received your degree); and
  3. A sample of your academic writing. This could be a paper that you wrote for a course or an undergraduate thesis, etc. If you do not have one, please feel free to apply and simply let us know that you did not have one. (If you have questions about this, please write to us, and we will help.)

In your statement of intent, please include information about:

  1. Your eligibility for this program;
  2. How this training aligns with your goals;
  3. How your background and personal experience prepares you for this training;
  4. Any additional information that you want us to know and consider.

This project is committed to supporting the next generation of Indigenous scholars, so we ask that all Indigenous applicants please self-identify at stage 1.

You do not need to include letters of reference at Stage 1. Nor do you need to pay an application fee.

Please feel free to contact Katrina Salvante if you have any questions about how to apply (see contact information above).

Stage 2 Application Process

We will review stage 1 applications and let you know within a few weeks if you have been selected by the committee and are invited to apply to stage 2.

If you are selected, stage 2 will require a short virtual (Zoom) interview in early December. After the interview, we will let you know if you have been selected to go forward to stage 3.

Stage 3 Application Process

The applicant who is selected to go forward will apply officially to SFU. Applications through the SFU online application system must be complete (including three letters of reference) no later than January 15, 2022. You will need to pay the application fee, but we will reimburse you for this later. You will also need to have official transcripts from all of your previous post-secondary education sent directly to SFU as well as two letters of reference (our team will provide the third letter of reference).

For the successful applicant, a formal offer letter will come directly from SFU (probably in April or May, 2022) to begin the program in September 2022.


Please see for a separate opportunity for Master's degree training in the Faculty of Health Sciences at SFU.