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Meet Joe Gallagher: PHSA’s vice president of Indigenous Health and Cultural Safety

Joe Gallagher will support PHSA as we work toward building a health care system that is safe and accessible for Indigenous People in our province. Learn more about Joe through this Q&A.
Joe Gallagher
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To support PHSA in fostering relationships with Indigenous partners and supporting Indigenous cultural safety initiatives across the organization, Joe Gallagher joins our executive leadership team as our first vice president of Indigenous Health and Cultural Safety. In this new role, Joe will support PHSA as we work toward building a healthcare system that is safe and accessible for Indigenous People in our province.

We sat down with Joe to learn more about his background and why he’s excited to join the team at PHSA.

What drew you to PHSA and this role?

I was drawn to the role at PHSA because of its provincial scope and its role in supporting many speciality programs and services. With this unique leadership role, I believe PHSA can play an important part in addressing Indigenous specific racism and advancing cultural safety throughout our provincial healthcare system.

You’re a member of the Tla'amin First Nation. Could you tell us a little about your community and what it means to you?

The Tla’amin Nation has about 1,100 members and is in the early days of implementing its modern-day treaty with B.C. and Canada. Health and wellness is a big part of what the Nation is working toward for its members. I remember when I was a small boy growing up, I really wanted to be a soccer player as we had many great athletes who were recognized far and wide. Because of colonial impact and efforts, playing on the soccer team was one of the few places where I could learn about Tla’amin teachings. 

Today, culture and language are front and center as the Nation looks to rediscover and redesign who we are as a self-governing Nation. So for me, it’s so important to be connected to family and friends at home and to be part of this work to shape a better future for Tla’amin, like my parents’ generation did for me.

What will you be focused on in your first 3-6 months?

In the next few months, I’ll be focused on gaining a better understanding of PHSA’s current work to address Indigenous health issues as well as getting to know the Indigenous Health team. I’ll also be focused on building effective partnerships with the senior executive leaders at PHSA and beyond, to see how best to advance the important work-related Indigenous health issues.

What advice do you have for staff who want to do more to support Indigenous Cultural Safety in their work, but aren’t sure where to start?

It’s important for staff to begin or advance their self-directed learning journey, engage in dialogue about what they are learning, and when possible, build and nurture positive relationships with Indigenous peoples. We must also acknowledge that culturally unsafe experiences originate from Indigenous specific racism that is inherent in colonial institutions, and work to build resiliency to mitigate the uncomfortable feelings we may experience so that we can stay focused on this matter. 

As leader in Indigenous Health in B.C. what does it mean to you to have the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation as a statutory holiday?

Having a national holiday is an opportunity for Canadians to do their part in understanding the true history of this country while recognizing the significance of Orange Shirt Day and reflect on the true meaning of reconciliation.

What are you most proud of in your career so far?

I’m most proud of my work in the area of cultural safety and humility as the CEO of the First Nations Health Authority. In my work there, we were able to advance First Nations health governance partnerships with the B.C. health system through the signing of declarations with the Ministry of Health, the regional health authorities, the regulatory colleges and several other key partners to get this journey started.

What do you like to do outside of work?

COVID-19 has changed this a lot for everyone, so I do what I can to stay safe. Like many, I have been focused on connecting with family. I like to spend time with my 25-year-old son who lives in Vancouver—he likes to go to the gym, so I join him and then we go out for dinner. I have also recently started travelling home to Tla’amin to visit family. Beyond that, I like to road cycle, go for runs and I try to get out for a round of golf when I can. 

Indigenous Health
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