Master of Science (MSc) program in Indigenous population health

What is this opportunity?

We invite applications now for one fully-funded, 32-month (September 2020 to April 2023), MSc degree in Indigenous population health provided jointly by the Simon Fraser University (SFU) 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.

The student will earn an 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 four currently enrolled students and another who will begin in September 2020.

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.

Learn more information about MSc degrees in FHS

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.

In alphabetical order, they are:

  • Nicole Berry (Associate Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, SFU) 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 almost two decades.  
  • Rebecca Love (Manager, Evaluation, FNHA) has nine years of evaluation experience in healthcare and community-based health research.
  • Namaste Marsden (Manager, Research & Knowledge Exchange, FNHA and Adjunct Professor at the SFU Faculty of Health Sciences) is Gitxsan and has nearly two decades of experience leading Aboriginal programs and organizations in health, policy, and research at the local, regional and national level.
  • Shannon McDonald (Deputy Chief Medical Officer, First Nations Health Authority) is Métis/Anishinabe with deep roots in the Red River Valley of Manitoba. She previously served as Executive Director of the Aboriginal Health Directorate, BC Ministry of Health; a Regional Medical Officer with FNIHB Health Canada; and worked for many years on community health programs.
  • Jennifer Murray (Research Analyst, First Nations Health Authority) has training in epidemiology and experience working on community health research and service delivery programs in several countries.
  • Jeffrey Reading (Professor and FNHA Chair in Heart Health and Wellness, Faculty of Health Sciences, SFU) 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.
  • Krista Stelkia (Manager, Indigenous Health and Wellness Research, First Nations Health Authority, Office of the Chief Medical Officer) is a member of Osoyoos First Nation and a Ph.D. Candidate at the SFU Faculty of Health Sciences where trainees will earn their MSc degrees.
  • Scott Venners (Associate Professor, SFU Faculty of Health Sciences) 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. He also served as a member of the external advisory committee for the FNREEES survey at the FNHA.
  • Amanda Ward (Director of Research, Knowledge & Exchange, FNHA and Adjunct Professor at the SFU Faculty of Health Sciences) has led health research as a Principal Investigator with First Nations, Inuit and Métis populations and has provided leadership and guidance to the RHS and FNREEES projects and teams since 2013 including implementation, analysis and reporting.

What are the dates and location?

Trainees will begin in September 2020 and finish no later than April 2023.

Students will take courses primarily at the Simon Fraser University Burnaby campus, but might also take courses at the Vancouver or Surrey campuses.

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.

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 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.), 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?

We have already accepted five students.  Three began in September 2018, one will begin in September 2019 and another in September 2020.  We are now recruiting one more student to begin in September 2020.

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 Namaste Marsden at the First Nations Health Authority at or 604-699-3148.

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 18, 2019.

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).

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

Stage 3 Application Process

Those who are selected to go forward will apply officially to SFU. Applications through the SFU online application system must be complete (including two letters of reference) no later than January 15, 2020.  We will pay the application fee for you.  You will 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 April or May, 2020) to begin the program in September 2020.