Indigenous health-care advocate and award-winning actor Dr. Evan Adams named 2019 Honorary Fellow

Douglas College presented the 2019 Honorary Fellow award on June 12 to Dr. Evan Adams: physician, educator, actor and Indigenous health-care leader. The award is the highest honour presented by the College.

A member of the Tla’amin First Nation, near Powell River, B.C., Dr. Adams is Chief Medical Officer for the First Nations Health Authority. In his role, he leads a team of physicians who focus on First Nations health and wellness with the aim of creating a unique health care model that is the first of its kind in Canada. He and his team are instrumental in improving access to, and the quality of, health care services, while watching over First Nations health data, and responding to wellness directives provided by First Nations communities.

Dr. Adams earned his medical degree from the University of Calgary, his Family Practice residency at St. Paul’s Hospital/UBC, and went on to receive his Masters of Public Health from Johns Hopkins University. While pursuing his master’s degree, he was employed as the first-ever Aboriginal Health Physician Advisor in the Office of the Provincial Health Officer with the B.C. Ministry of Health. From there, he went on to become the Deputy Provincial Health Officer for the province of British Columbia before taking on his current role with the First Nations Health Authority.

Prior to pursuing medicine, Dr. Adams was an award-winning actor. Amongst his dozens of roles in film and on stage, he is best known for his role as Thomas Builds-the-Fire in Smoke Signals (1998), an all-Indigenous written, directed and produced film that garnered critical success at the Sundance Film Festival.

“Dr. Adams’ commitment to improving health and wellness in First Nations communities is truly inspiring,” said Kathy Denton, President of Douglas College. “His career choice to transition from an accomplished actor to a medical professional and health care advocate demonstrates to our students that success takes many forms, that education is a life-long pursuit and that there’s more than one way to make a difference in the lives of others.”

For the graduating class of 2019, Dr. Adams has this advice, “Remember to be humble. Throughout your time in post-secondary, you’ve been training for the marathon that is your future. Once you graduate, you will run out into the world where you’ll face many obstacles. Everything that life hands you requires a good personhood, not just good training, so be a good partner, a good citizen and be humble and respectful of all that is in this big, wide world.”

Dr. Adams has received numerous awards for his leadership in health care, including the University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine Alumni Award, the Family Medicine Resident Leadership Award from the College of Family Physicians of Canada, an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Simon Fraser University, and the Native Education College’s Excellence Award.

Douglas College is the largest degree-granting college in B.C., combining the academic foundations of a university and the employer-ready skills of a college to provide the most relevant and inspiring undergraduate experience in British Columbia. 

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