Master of Science (MSc) program in Indigenous population health

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

What is this opportunity?

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

For existing students, this is a fully-funded, 32-month, MSc degree in Indigenous population health provided jointly by the Simon Fraser University Faculty of Health Sciences and the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) with funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research – Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health.

Students will earn a MSc in health sciences from Simon Fraser University and receive mentorship and training in Indigenous population health practice and First Nations approaches to research from the First Nations Health Authority. The successful applicant will join a cohort of currently enrolled students.

Graduates will have marketable skills in mixed methods epidemiology, enhanced knowledge of First Nations data governance, and demonstrated ability to apply these skills in real work settings such as the First Nations Health Authority.

What will I learn?

To earn this MSc degree, you must successfully complete an original research study using quantitative epidemiological methods combined with qualitative approaches. 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 the practice of Indigenous population health at the First Nations Health Authority.

Who will my mentors be?

Your mentors are all co-leaders of this training opportunity. They designed the program together and are fully committed to mentoring you as you travel along your learning journey. All of them work at the First Nations Health Authority and/or the SFU Faculty of Health Sciences. Mentors will help trainees develop professional skills and knowledge in research, policy and practice in Indigenous population health.

  • Sonia Isaac-Mann (Vice President, Programs & Services, FNHA and Adjunct Professor, SFU FHS) is from Listuguj First Nation with over 25 years of experience in First Nations health policy, programming, research leadership and ethics, self-determination and governance.
  • Scott Venners (Associate Professor and Associate Dean of Education, SFU FHS) is an epidemiologist who has trained graduate students in quantitative research methods for over a decade. He has extensive cross-cultural experience from living and working in West Africa and East Asia. His previous research focused on environmental epidemiology. His current focus is Indigenous health research.

  • Nicole Berry (Associate Professor, SFU FHS) is an anthropologist with extensive training in qualitative research methods and post-doctoral training in community-based participatory research. She has worked in Indigenous communities in Guatemala on issues of reproductive health for two decades.

  • Kathryn Berry-Einarson (Manager, Surveys & Data Secretariat, Research & Knowledge Exchange, FNHA and Adjunct Professor, SFU FHS) has worked with the FNHA for 6 years in the area of population health data and reporting project management. She supports the FNHA data governance committees, and can provide guidance and information on accessing First Nations data from FNHA and around the province.

  • Mathew Fleury or Gimewan Niimi (Rain Dancer, Buffalo Clan) (Manager, Research and Knowledge and Exchange, FNHA and Adjunct Professor, SFU FHS) is a member of Mistawasis Nêhiyawak and as a proud member of one of the founding families of the Métis Nation, he has deep roots in the Red River Valley of Manitoba. As a trained Indigenous Social Worker, community-based researcher, and public health professional, Mathew has a strong background in Indigenous research methodologies, trauma and violence-informed approaches, anti-racism, and cultural safety and humility.

  • Jessica Humchitt (Analyst, Research, FNHA) is a member of the Haíɫzaqv (Heiltsuk) Nation. She brings over 10 years of experience in Indigenous health, as well as her passion for language revitalization, Land-based wellness, food security, and addressing inequities. She is working to enhance Indigenous professional capacity and networking at the First Nations Health Authority.

  • Frederick Langshaw (Senior Project Coordinator, SFU FHS) has experience coordinating care for Nunavik Inuit populations, in both quantitative and qualitative design and analysis, and supporting undergraduate and graduate students. He has a background in Sociology and a Professional Specialization Certificate in Population Health Data Analysis. He previously worked in medical education research and in health and wellness research at the FNHA.

  • Shannon McDonald (Chief Medical Officer, FNHA and Adjunct Professor, SFU FHS) is Metis/Anishinabe with deep roots in the Red River Valley of Manitoba. Dr. McDonald is a medical doctor specializing in Psychiatry and Community Medicine. She has over 20 years of experience in Aboriginal and First Nations community health and wellness, health care service delivery and administration across her roles at several local, provincial and national organizations. Note for students: Dr. McDonald's availability is greatly limited by the demands of her leadership roles. Please write to for more information.

  • Jennifer Murray (Research Advisor, Research, Knowledge & Exchange, FNHA and PhD Student, UBC) is an epidemiologist with extensive experience in community health research and service delivery programs in several countries.

  • Jeff Reading (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.

  • Krista Stelkia (University Research Associate, SFU FHS) is a member of Osoyoos First Nation. She is a University Research Associate and PhD candidate at the SFU Faculty of Health Sciences where trainees will earn their MSc degrees. She was previously Manager of Indigenous Health and Wellness Research in the Office of the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) at FNHA.

What are the dates and location?

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

Students will take courses primarily at the Simon Fraser University Burnaby campus, but might also take courses at the Vancouver or Surrey campuses. (Courses will be online if COVID-19 restrictions still require it at that time.)

You will have the opportunity to receive additional mentorship at the offices of the BC First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) in Vancouver or West Vancouver. (This will occur via online conferencing if COVID-19 restrictions still require it at that time.)

We anticipate that courses will continue to be taught in person at SFU. 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, scholarships, and teaching assistantships, students will receive financial support equal to their tuition and fees plus $18,500/year for living expenses.

Students will receive financial support during each semester of full-time active enrollment in the MSc program at SFU up to a maximum of 8 academic terms (32 months).

Additionally, research-related costs will be paid by the program 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 First Nations in BC requires deep understanding of cultures and contexts, we may give preference to qualified Indigenous applicants, especially those who self-identify as First Nations from BC or provide evidence of close relationships and experience with First Nations in BC (e.g. living for five years or more with a First Nations community in BC).

All applicants must meet SFU minimum MSc degree and GPA requirements, which include:

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

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.

Can I still apply if my undergrad degree isn’t in health sciences?

If you like working with numbers, you might be right for this program. In addition to health sciences, other bachelor’s degrees could make you eligible.

We hope to bring more excellent students into the health field and there is a great opportunity for students with strong quantitative skills to build a professional career in epidemiology applied to Indigenous population health.

partial list of undergraduate degrees that might make you eligible for this training include health sciences, any basic science (biology, chemistry, physics, geography, etc.), nursing, business, economics, computing or data science, mathematics, statistics, or operations research, among many others. If you are unsure whether your background would qualify you, please contact us and we would be happy to discuss it with you (see contact info below).

How many students do you accept into the program?

Please note: this program will not be enrolling new students until further notice due to funding.

There are currently seven students in the program.

Who can I contact if I have more questions?

For questions related to application to the program or training at SFU, please contact Scott Venners at Simon Fraser University at or 778-782-8494.

For questions related to training at the FNHA or future work in the field of Indigenous population health, please contact Mathew Fleury at the First Nations Health Authority at

How do I apply?

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


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, writing samples 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. Indigenous applicants may be asked to provide documentation of Aboriginal heritage (see Stage 2 for more details).

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 on November 12, 2021.

For stage 1, please send to Scott Venners at

  1. A statement of intent and;
  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).
  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. We use the term Indigenous here to refer to Aboriginal peoples of Canada—First Nations (Status and Non-Status), Métis, and Inuit peoples.

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 Scott Venners if you have any questions about the program or 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 phone interview in early to mid-December.

For Indigenous applicants:

  • Documentation of membership or Indigenous ancestry (First Nations, Métis, or Inuit) may be requested. This could include but is not limited to, Indian or Métis status cards, documentation from the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) and Affiliates, official Inuit identification, letters from an official representative of your First Nations, Métis, or Inuit communities or organizations, genealogical reports (i.e., census data), or a combination of proofs (i.e., respecting Indigenous oral traditions, a signed letter from a Chief, Elder, or Knowledge Keeper who can attest to an applicant’s indigeneity).
  • Importantly, for those who do not have membership or documentation that verifies Indigenous ancestry for various reasons (i.e., due to colonization, displacement, non-status, adoption, etc.), this part of the process will be flexible and take into account it may be difficult or upsetting and every effort will be taken to ensure it is done in a culturally safe and humble and trauma-informed way. Please contact Scott Venners ( and Mathew Fleury ( to discuss this.

After the interview, we will let you know if you have been selected to go forward to Stage 3.

Stage 3 Application Process

The individuals who are selected to go forward will apply officially to SFU through the SFU online application system. 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.

For the successful applicant, a formal offer letter will come directly from SFU (probably in January-March) to begin the program in the following September.