U of S and James Smith Cree Nation explore joint research and health care initiatives

SASKATOON – The University of Saskatchewan (U of S) College of Medicine, James Smith Cree Nation (JSCN), and JSCN Medical Clinic LP have signed an MOU to collaborate on initiatives that could include a joint radiology research chair, medical imaging services and research, and educational development opportunities for Indigenous youth.

“We acknowledge that the MOU is the start, a good start, for further discussion, and that we will work together to realize the opportunities and potential of this relationship,” said U of S  College of Medicine Dean Preston Smith. 

JSCN is a Cree First Nations community 70 kilometres east of Prince Albert that comprises three separate Cree communities: James Smith, Peter Chapman, and Chakastapaysin, all of which are on Treaty 6 land, as is the U of S. 

JSCN Medical Clinic LP is a new private start-up company specializing in medical imagery services and diagnostic laboratories. The company is setting up an MRI (medical resonance imaging) and CT (computed tomography) facility in Saskatoon to provide both clinical services integrated with the Saskatchewan health-care system and dedicated research studies. 

The proposed facility would increase access to MRI 3 Tesla (MRI 3T) and other radiology services for U of S researchers. MRI 3T, advanced MRI equipment with a magnetic field strength (measured in Teslas) twice as powerful as standard MRI scanners, provides extremely clear and vivid images, particularly for brain, vascular, musculoskeletal and small bone imaging, and is proving to be an exciting research tool. This would be only the second MRI 3T in Saskatchewan.

At present, U of S researchers do not have sufficient access to aN MRI 3T scanner for studies in areas such as neurology, due to limited access to existing scanners. 

Other proposed initiatives under the MOU include:

  • Create a joint radiology research chair that would enable the chairholder to perform academic and clinical services for both U of S and the JSCN Medical Clinic; 
  • Analyze with ‘big data’ and ‘artificial intelligence’ techniques the wealth of digital data and related information from the clinic’s MRI and other radiology services to support U of S research projects, as well as to inform clinical decision-making—information that could affect provision of health care services, potentially leading to cost savings for the health care system; and 
  • Establish training programs for radiologic technologists, MRI technicians, and related health care professionals at the U of S.

“Today is a great day for James Smith Cree Nation and JSCN Medical Clinic LP, and it’s a great example of treaty relationship between the parties involved on a Treaty 6 land,” said Dragan Racic,vice-president operations at JSCN Medical Clinic LP. “We at the clinic are excited about working and sharing our resources with the College of Medicine and research team to build education and research opportunities for all students and medical professionals for many years to come.” 

Chief Wally Burns of James Smith, Chief Robert Head of Peter Chapman, and Chief Calvin Sanderson of Chakastapaysin all signed the agreement.

“This opens a door for greater participation in higher university education projects and education opportunities for our people,” said Dwayne Seib, James Smith Cree Nation executive director. “For us, this represents a solid foundation from which we can build a relationship with the University of Saskatchewan to support the well-being of all people in Saskatchewan and Canada.”

Darcy Marciniuk, U of S associate vice-president research, said the agreement advances the university’s goals of connecting university expertise with local needs, and of engaging with Indigenous communities.

“This exciting suite of initiatives aligns well with our outstanding U of S imaging strengths and expertise and would contribute to the university’s growing hub of Indigenous health research,” he said.                                                   


For more information, please contact:

Jennifer Thoma
Media Relations Specialist
University of Saskatchewan
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