College of the Rockies Alumni Working Toward a Healthier Future for Indigenous People
In British Columbia the Dietetics field listed as a high opportunity occupation. According to WorkBC, nearly 900 job openings are expected in the field by 2032. The nation-wide statistics are no different, with 4,000 job openings predicted by 2032.
Seamus Damstrom’s desire to study in the field was more personal than job security, however. As an Indigenous Registered Dietitian from the Oneida Nation of the Thames (Turtle Clan), he strives to work with Indigenous populations to advocate for conversations around Indigenous food sovereignty and Indigenous ways of knowing in the field of dietetics and health care in general.
According to Diabetes Canada, Indigenous peoples are one of the highest-risk populations for diabetes and related health complications.
Damstrom, who started his education at College of the Rockies, taking University Science courses before transferring to the University of British Colombia and completing a Bachelor of Science in Food, Nutrition, and Health – majoring in Dietetics, hopes to help make a change through his role as the East Kootenay Public Health Dietician with Interior Health.
“My work involves health promotion and food security initiatives at local, regional, and provincial levels,” he said. “My personal interests include the intersection between public/population health and Indigenous ways of knowing, and how to apply an anti-racism and harm reduction approach to population health and food security work.”
With information emerging indicating that traditional Indigenous diets can supply a healthier pattern of fats and more vitamins and minerals than current Indigenous diets, Seamus hopes to be a part of a change to the dietary patterns of Indigenous people.
“I am completing a research project with UBC’s Nutritional Epidemiology for Population Health laboratory, a scoping review of dietary guidelines for, and involving, Indigenous populations in the US and Canada,” he said. “This review of scientific literature as well as reports, working papers, government documents, etc., was born from conversations with ongoing research project partners in academia as well as in food, nutrition, and health sectors in Nunavut.”
Damstrom believes that being able to complete some of his education in the region he now serves as dietitian was of tremendous benefit.
“The College experience provided me with the opportunity to appreciate and respect the importance of building and strengthening relationships. Staying connected with the community is vitally important to providing informed feedback and advice on population health and food security policy and program design. The small class sizes at the College helped me gain experience in building trusting relationships as you need to support one another as you progressed in your class,” he said. “My advice to future students is to remember to be kind and gentle to yourself. It’s a journey and you will get there.”