Dawn Thomas, Aa ap waa iik, is Island Health’s first-ever Executive Lead, Indigenous Health 

Island Health is pleased to announce that Dawn Thomas, Aa ap waa iik, is the organization’s new Executive Lead, Indigenous Health. Thomas, a member of the Snuneymuxw First Nation on Vancouver Island, brings more than 20 years of experience with Indigenous children, families, communities and leadership to this newly-established senior leadership role.

Thomas’s traditional name is Aa ap waa iik, a Nuu-chah-nulth name that loosely translates to: the one who says the right words about chiefly business.

“I am appreciative and grateful that Dawn Thomas has chosen to share her wisdom and experience and join the Island Health family to help guide us in our journey of improving health outcomes for all Indigenous peoples across our region, and embedding cultural safety and humility into our everyday practices at Island Health,” said Kathy MacNeil, Island Health President and Chief Executive Officer. “I am also very thankful to Indigenous partners who helped guide our recruitment process for this position.”

As Executive Lead, Indigenous Health, Thomas will engage with a wide range of senior internal and external partners to foster effective relationships, leadership and service advancement, while ensuring an Indigenous lens is applied to the development, review and revision of Island Health’s organization values, governance, administration and decision-making. She will work to continuously improve quality and safety, including cultural safety and humility.

“Dawn will be a key member of the Island Health leadership team to help us advance our work in creating a more integrated, culturally safe and responsive health system free from racism and discrimination,” said MacNeil. “I look forward to our shared learning journey.”

The Executive Lead position portfolio responsibilities include the Indigenous Health Program, Cultural Safety Facilitators, and Indigenous Employment Program.

Prior to joining Island Health, Thomas worked for the B.C. Government at the Ministry of Children and Family Development and most recently at the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth. She holds a Master of Arts in Dispute Resolution and a Bachelor of Arts in Child and Youth Care from the University of Victoria. 

“That Island Health has created this type of senior leadership position speaks to the extent of its commitment to improving the health and care experience for Indigenous patients and families, and to building relationships with Indigenous patients, families, staff and care providers,” said Robina Thomas, a Lyackson First Nations member, a former Island Health Board director and a member of the hiring panel for the Executive Lead, Indigenous Health.  “This is a meaningful step forward, and Dawn is exactly the right person for the role.”

Thomas begins her new role with Island Health today – June 1, 2020.

About Island Health:
Island Health provides health care and support services to more than 800,000 people on Vancouver Island, the islands in the Salish Sea and the Johnstone Strait, and mainland communities north of Powell River. With more than 22,000 staff and over 2,000 physician partners, 6,000 volunteers, and the dedicated support of foundations and auxiliaries, Island Health delivers a broad range of health services, including: Public health services, primary health care, home and community care, mental health and addictions services, acute care in hospitals, and much more across a huge, geographically diverse region.

Media contacts:    
Dominic Abassi

Cheryl Bloxham