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Meloche headed to med school 

Courtesy Luke McGregor

At 19, Cameryn Meloche set out to British Columbia, motivated by a craving to see more of the world. “I really wanted to go as far as possible,” she said. 

So when it came the time to pick between McGill University and University of British Columbia (UBC), the choice was obvious. She was drawn not only by what UBC could offer in terms of a new experience, but also by their co-op program and resources available to Indigenous students. 

She graduated in May 2022 with a bachelor’s of science in microbiology and immunology. 

But over the years she spent away from Kahnawake working towards her degree, one thing became clear. 

“I realized, as I got older, how much being home and being in the community means to me, which is not something that I recognized when I was younger at all,” said Meloche. 

She’s moved back to Kahnawake, where she works at the Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre (KMHC) as a quality improvement and communications advisor. 

Come fall, she will begin medical school at McGill University. 

“I realized being here is what’s most important to me,” she said.

For Meloche, having an Indigenous-operated hospital in the Kahnawake is a crucial asset for the community. 

“I think it’s amazing, and I think we’re just so lucky to have this here. I really think when you have your own people caring for your own people, you know what works best for them,” she said, adding that traditional teachings and Kanien’kéha are incorporated in their care and their everyday work. 

Another aspect she appreciates is something unique to community hospitals. 

“I’m 25 now and I’m working now with people that took care of me when I was an infant. It’s amazing to see the relationships that you build over the years here.”

Although Meloche left BC filled with experiences, new friends and connections, pursuing her graduate studies closer to home was a no-brainer.

Being far away from home, with a $900 round-trip flight to visit family, factored into dampening the experience of studying abroad she initially had in mind. She visited her family in Kahnawake over summer and winter breaks, but being away for most of the year didn’t come easy. 

“The first few weeks were exciting. Everything is new and you’re meeting new friends. And then after that, reality settles in,” said Meloche.  

The challenges she faced is something those close to her know all too well, too. 

“It feels like it’s been such a long road,” said Cheryl Zacharie, Meloche’s mother, adding that throughout it all, she supported her daughter’s decision to move, knowing that it’ll in turn give her invaluable experiences. 

“For Cameryn, it was a huge learning experience and an opportunity to really grow and get to know different people and to really learn for herself what she was capable of,” Zacharie.

Over the four years in BC, Zacharie enjoyed her daughter growing and blossoming. “She knows how to relate to people, which I think is fantastic, and she’s very much a leader. She knows what needs to get done and she’s going to get it done.”

She’s looking forward to her first semester at medical school when students will be paired with a family doctor and shadow them throughout the year. “I am very excited to already start seeing patients in a few months.”

For now, specializing in pediatric emergency medicine is on her radar for her residency training following the four years of med school.  

Upon graduation, though it may be many years down the line, Meloche already has her sights set on opening an ER or an urgent care centre in Kahnawake in hopes of providing a safer care experience for patients who now have no choice but to go to hospitals outside the community. 

“When you have Indigenous people in medicine, in health care, especially Onkwehón:we Mohawk people working for Mohawk people, that’s when you begin to increase the trust in medicine, in science, in research, because that’s a historical trauma,” said Meloche.

For her, pursuing medicine coupled her love of science and working with kids. “I really strongly believe that we can make our community healthier by making our children healthier.”

This article was originally published in print on Friday, July 6, in issue 32.27 of The Eastern Door.

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Nanor is a reporter and copy editor with The Eastern Door. She was previously the managing editor and creative director at The Link.

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Nanor is a reporter and copy editor with The Eastern Door. She was previously the managing editor and creative director at The Link.