Research Staff

Elder Advisor & Community Research Liaison

Jessie Nyberg

Jessie Nyberg, RN, BScN

My name is Jessie Nyberg and I am a Shuswap Elder registered to the Creek Band. My Shuswap name is “Busy Ant” given to me by my grandmother when I was a year old. I am a wife, mother of two, grandmother of three and a retired registered nurse having practiced for forty-five years. I was fortunate to achieve my RN, BSc and two courses away from a MHA.

I am, and always will be, a strong advocate for my People. I believe that we must work together with the society in which we exist to help eradicate racism, discrimination, assumptions, etc that still exist and make it especially difficult for my People to access health care and receive adequate and appropriate care.  I also believe that we, especially our children, must be viewed holistically. I believe that poverty, poor housing, poor nutrition, poor health, unsafe drinking water as well as parenting skills, language, culture, tradition, early childhood development programs, family, extended family and community, etc., all contribute to the development of our children. We must work to identify and then fill the gaps so that we will ultimately have equity with rest of the population.

  • Chair of the Board of Directors of the First Nations Friendship Center, Vernon,
  • Member of School District #22 Aboriginal education committee,
  • Co-chair of the First Nations Health Curriculum Advisory Council of UBC “O”(developing four modules on First Nations Health to become part of existing curriculum of health science faculties)
  • Member of the Okanagan Aboriginal Health Research action group
  • Member Urban Elders group Vernon
  • Past coordinator of the Aboriginal Infant and Early childhood development center which I helped to plan, implement and evaluate and develop into a “Family Hub” with the First Nations Friendship Center.
  • Was instrumental in helping to achieve a “Primary Care Center’ in downtown Vernon for low income and marginalized families and those without a family physician.

In 2007 I co-authored paper “Silencing of Voice, an Act of Structural Violence” which was published in the NAHO Journal of Health. In November 2007, I received the 2007 Aboriginal Child Care Award presented by the BC Aboriginal Childcare Society in recognition of outstanding service and contribution to Aboriginal children in BC.

Project Coordinator 2011-2013

Carlene Dingwall

Carlene Dingwall, BA, MEd Counselling

Carlene Dingwall is a Cree/Métis graduate student at UBCO and a relative newcomer to the Okanagan Valley. A considerable portion of her professional career involves working with Aboriginal communities and people in addressing the social and health inequities that continue to be the lived reality of many Aboriginal people today. Carlene has focused her work on HIV/AIDS and the concepts of mental health and well being. Most recently, she has been working with the Okanagan Nation and other Aboriginal communities to develop health related curriculum for UBC Okanagan. As a lifetime “bush” woman, Carlene is passionate about the potential for Indigenous knowledge to address the current inequities within our health, education and justice and economic systems, and also to pave the way for a more human sustainable future for all. Her PhD research draws on Indigenous knowledge to enhance and reframe our current understanding of mental health and mental health systems and practices.

Project Coordinator 2006-2011/2013-2014

Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith, BSc, MSc

Michelle has been a research coordinator in the Faculty of Health and Social Development at the University of British Columbia since 2004. She has also been involved in primary prevention research at the British Columbia Cancer Agency for the Southern Interior. Michelle was coordinator for the Okanagan Aboriginal Health Research Action Group and the Cultural Safety Symposium held in 2007. Michelle has worked on various health research projects including those focusing on: health care for people with Dementia/Alzheimer’s, health care for Aboriginal people, youth and young adult tobacco use, tobacco policy in post-secondary institutions, lung cancer patient and family member perspectives of tobacco use, and health perspectives in the hospitality industry.  Research interests focus on how social and health care structures influence health and quality of life and the importance of recognition and inclusion as a way to improve health for all people.

Graduate Research Assistants

Carmella Alexis Headshot 2

Carmella Alexis, BSc

Way’xast xelxalt, my name is Carmella Alexis and I am a member of the Okanagan Indian Band. I am currently finishing my first  year of the Master’s of Arts Interdisciplinary Studies program with the University of British Columbia Okanagan. My research encompasses Syilx health, Indigenous health, health policy, public policy, research and health ethics, palliative care and communicable diseases. I am currently working as a graduate research assistant at the University of British Columbia Okanagan with the CIHR funded project titled “Planning to Practice: Establishing Cultural Safety and Effecting Organizational Change for Aboriginal Healthcare in the Urban Centre of the Central Okanagan”. The research I am working to complete for my thesis will examine Okanagan concepts of cultural safety and palliative care while utilizing a Syilx focused epistemological framework involving community members at all levels. My thesis will reflect the traditional Okanagan enow’kinwiwx process of consensus dialogue. Way; kn way’.

Carmella’s Thesis

Work Study Students

2010-2011 Academic Year

Maureen Smith

Maureen Smith, BFA, BSW

In 2010 Maureen was hired for a work-study position at the Centre for Social, Spatial, and Economic Justice working on the Cultural Safety Research Project. Maureen completed her Bachelor of Social Work degree in 2002 in Winnipeg and then moved to the West Coast and worked for the Canadian Coast Guard and Veterans Affairs Canada. In 2005 she moved to the East Kootenays as the first caretaker and administrator of the newly formed Clear Sky Meditation and Study Centre. Along with this role, she completed numerous meditation retreats, worked with people living with cancer, and participated in the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce Leadership BC Program. Currently, Maureen is loving her studies toward her Masters in Clinical Social Work, living in the Okanagan and working on this research project.

Jessica Donaldson

Jessica Donaldson

Jessica is currently completing a BA in psychology and anthropology. She transferred from Okanagan College to UBC Okanagan in 2010. Jessica started the H.O.P.E Outreach program, a downtown nighttime outreach program providing personal items, clothing, etc for women on the streets. She headed the FASD Task Force and Sex Worker Integration Model (SWIM) in Kelowna. The goal of both programs was to bridge the gaps in services for both populations. Jessica plans to begin a graduate program in clinical psychology upon completion of her BA.

Previous Work Study Students

2009-2010 Academic Year

Katelyn Short, undergraduate student

Allisha Luther, BSc, MA graduate student

Toben McFarlane, BFA, MA graduate student

Julie Steffler, undergraduate student