2022 INDUCTEE Thomas A. Dignan, MD Patient Care, Public Health, Health Promotion & Advocacy, Leadership in Organizational Development, Health and Medical Education & Training
March 12, 1942
January 17, 2021
MD, McMaster University (1981)
BSN, University of Alberta (1977)
2019: Invested as a member of the Order of Canada
2012: Queen's Diamond Jubilee MedalSee All Awards
Awards & Honours:
2019: Invested as a member of the Order of Canada
2012: Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal
2006: Order of Ontario
2005: National Aboriginal Achievement Award, Medicine
2003: Queen's Jubilee Medal
Dedicated his life to improving the health and well-being of Indigenous Peoples in Canada
Created safe spaces for systemic change and mentorship
Dr. Dignan is admired for his decades of devoted service to Indigenous Peoples in Canada. A Mohawk from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, he advocated tirelessly to eradicate inequities in Indigenous health care, legendary for his stalwart resistance to systemic racism in the medical profession. He helped assure mandated Indigenous health care training in postgraduate medical education (PGME) across all Royal College residency programs and mentored generations of Indigenous physicians. A licensed pilot and fly-in physician, he brought health care to remote and isolated regions of Ontario while serving as president and founding member, respectively, of the Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association and Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada (as they are known today) - pillars of Indigenous health care advocacy. Throughout his long career of selfless service, including a drive for a national standard of vaccination against chicken pox, Dr. Dignan brought attention and care to vital on-reserve health care issues. A champion for systemic change, his inspiring personal journey from soldier to nurse to physician exemplifies his drive to advance the cause of comprehensive and equitable health care for Indigenous People everywhere.
Helped to secure mandated Indigenous health care training in postgraduate medical education (PGME) across all Royal College residency programs
Mentored generations of Indigenous physicians
Brought health care to remote and isolated regions of Ontario
First President of what is now the Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association and founding member of the now Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada
Spearheaded a drive for a national standard of vaccination against chicken pox
Impact on lives today
Dr. Dignan’s pioneering work in promoting and extending health care services for Indigenous Peoples in Canada has permanently improved the condition of all Indigenous Canadians. One of the first to draw attention to on-reserve health care issues, Dr. Dignan helped to ensure that postgraduate medical education in Royal Colleges now includes Indigenous health care training in all residency programs. His personal example as a courageous physician serving Indigenous health care needs remains a model and inspiration in the ongoing effort to provide equitable and effective health care to all Canadians. A mentor to generations of Indigenous physician leaders, Dr. Dignan and his legacy live on in the growing ranks of Indigenous physicians and nurses now working throughout Canada.
Thomas Dignan is posthumously inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame
His medal was received by his daughter Heather Dignan who represented him at the Ceremony in Ottawa, ON.
Appointed by the First Nations Information Governance Centre to the Research Ethics Committee for the First Nations Regional Health Survey
The Royal College establishes the Dr. Thomas Dignan Indigenous Health Award
Awarded annually to celebrate Canadian Indigenous physicians or physicians-in-training, Elders or Knowledge Keepers who epitomize a zeal and devotion to Canadian Indigenous rights and the dogged pursuit of justice for Canada’s Indigenous people.
Chair of the Indigenous Health Advisory Committee (AHAC) - Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, Ottawa
Acts as primary care physician at the Wabano Health Access Centre
Over the span of four years, Dr. Dignan worked directly with the urban Aboriginal population of Ottawa.
Council Member of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
Co-Chair of the National Collaboration Centre for Aboriginal Health (NCCAH) - University of British Columbia
Sits on the board of the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada (IPAC)
This position involved the organization and facilitation of conferences and educational opportunities as well as networking with native physicians in Ontario and mentoring of aboriginal medical students.
Holds the position of Medical Director at the Thunder Bay District Community Care Access Centre
As a primary care physician at the Anishinawbe Muskiki Native Health Access Centre, Dr. Dignan works directly with the urban aboriginal population of Thunder Bay
Helps formalize and officially establish the Native Physicians Association of Canada.Public Health, Health Promotion & Advocacy
Now known as the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada (IPAC), this organization was formed to encourage and support First Nations, Métis and Inuit youth wishing to become medical doctors, to support those already in training or practice and to promote the work of its members in their many capacities and disciplines.
Serves as secretary and member of the board of a precursor organization that would later become the Native Physicians Association of Canada (NPAC), now known as the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada (IPAC).
Completes his MD at McMaster University
Thomas Dignan was McMaster's oldest graduate and first ever of First Nations ancestry.
Becomes first President of the Native Nurses' Association of CanadaThe Early Days - Health Care Pioneers
This association is now known as the Canadian Indigenous Nurses' Association.
Enrolls at the University of Alberta to obtain his Bachelor of Science Nursing degree
Graduates third in his class from St. Joseph’s School of Nursing in Hamilton, Ontario
He then joins the Adolescent Unit at the Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital and later, the Outpost Nursing Station in Berens River, Manitoba as Nurse-in-Charge.
Enters the US Marine Corps and, during his service, earns his high school equivalency
At the age of 16 and following the death of his father, Thomas Dignan leaves high school to work as an office boy and stockroom clerk to support his mother and two sisters
Dr. Dignan was a mentor to our current and future Indigenous physician leaders who carry on his passion for the health and wellness of Indigenous Peoples.