" I was drawn to its renowned reputation for innovative research that strives to improve health and wellness, along with its dynamic interdisciplinary nature and its commitment to social justice and health equity."

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Tara Erb

January 02, 2024

doctoral student in the Faculty of Health Sciences

Tell us a little about yourself, including what inspires you to learn and continue in your chosen field

I am a member of Moose Cree First Nation and PhD student who has been successfully awarded a SSHRC scholarship. My Master's thesis (2020) examined the lived experience of Indigenous Cultural Safety (ICS) facilitators, such as the high rates of burnout. This work aligns well with my PhD because it provided me with ICS expertise and subject knowledge. For the past four years as the Network Coordinator for the BC NEIHR (BC Network Environment for Indigenous Health Research), a CIHR-funded operations grant, I have worked closely on diverse Indigenous research and knowledge mobilization initiatives, including the development of various ICS resources and the creation of the provincial Indigenous health research network. In this work, I have been actively involved in leading and supporting ICS initiatives with Research Ethics Boards (REBs) and other core research structures. This position offers me a strong foundation on which to nest my research as well it allows me to continue to develop and nurture the necessary partnerships needed to do this work.

Why did you choose to come to SFU?

Under the supervision of Dr. Krista Stelkia, I would choose to come to the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) at Simon Fraser University (SFU) because the PhD program offered by the FHS was an ideal fit for me. I was drawn to its renowned reputation for innovative research that strives to improve health and wellness, along with its dynamic interdisciplinary nature and its commitment to social justice and health equity. As an Indigenous student, the university’s commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action and SFU Aboriginal Reconciliation Council is very important to me. Furthermore, Indigenous ethics/ethical processes in research (the topic of my doctoral studies) is a timely and pressing issue, which fits with the FHS dedication to combatting some of the world’s most challenging problems.

How would you describe your research or your program to a family member?

While we have documents (e.g., TCPS2 Chapter 9) that outline provisions for the ethical conduct of research involving First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada, there remains a critical need to further develop ethical protocols, practices and processes that are grounded in Indigenous cultural safety (ICS) and Indigenous ways of knowing as well as nation-based ethical protocols. Enacting ICS and respecting the right to be self-determining in research leaves many people uncertain about how to implement Chapter 9 and navigate tensions when they arise. Consequently, ongoing ICS learning and understanding still needs to occur to uphold and advance Indigenous ethics and address policy to practice gaps. The overarching aim of this research is to explore how Indigenous cultural safety (ICS) can improve and advance Indigenous health research ethics practices and protocols in BC. This research will engage research ethics partners across BC, which include Indigenous communities, Research Ethics Boards, Indigenous health researchers and Indigenous cultural safety facilitators (ICSFs) who have experience working with mainstream core research structures and environments.

What three (3) keywords would you use to describe your research?

Indigenous research ethics/ethical processes; Indigenous health research; social theory

How have your courses, RA-ships, TA-ships, or non-academic school experiences contributed to your academic and/or professional development?

To date, the programs at UVic (Master's) and SFU (PhD) provided me with a strong foundation of interdisciplinary and methodology courses.

What have been the most valuable lessons you've learned along your graduate student journey (or in becoming a graduate student)?

What has really grounded me in my academic programs are my mentors Dr. Charlotte Loppie (retired 2022), Dr. Krista Stelkia (supervisor), Dr. Jeffery Reading (co-supervisor) and Dr. Steve Garlick (co-supervisor). In all my years as an Indigenous student, I have learned that mentorship for me means not only surviving within the institutional academic environment but thriving. Aligning my work on Indigenous ethics/ethical processes with and under the guidance and mentorship of Dr. Stelkia, as well as alongside the Centre for Collaborative Action on Indigenous Health Governance at FHS of which she is Co-Director, will ensure that my studies at FHS have the most substantial impact provincially, nationally, and internationally. It is my hope that pursuing a PhD degree in FHS at SFU will enable me to accomplish my career goals and aspirations of being a leading Indigenous health researcher in BC.


Contact Tara:tara_erb@sfu.ca