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Bernice Downey


Dr. Downey is a woman of Ojibwe and Celtic heritage, a mother and a grandmother. She is a medical anthropologist and joined the School of Nursing at McMaster in March of 2017. She is cross-appointed with the Department of Psychiatry and Neuro-Behavioural Sciences and is appointed as the Indigenous Health Lead for the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster. She holds a Heart & Stroke Foundation - Canadian Institute of Health Research - Chair in Indigenous Women’s Heart and Brain Health. She is also the A/Director of the McMaster Indigenous Research Institute.

Select Publications

  • Downey, B. (2020). Completing the circle: Towards the achievement of IND-equity – A culturally relevant health equity model by/for Indigenous populations. Witness: The Canadian Journal of Critical Nursing Discourse, 2(1), 97-110 10.25071/2291-5796.59 
  • Yeung, S., Ge, Y., Shanbhag, D., Liu, A., Downey, B., Hill, K., Martin-Hill, D., Amster, E., McKnight, C., & Wahi, G. (2020). A collective education mentorship model (CEMM): Responding to the TRC calls to action in undergraduate Indigenous health teaching. International Journal for Students As Partners4(1), 138-147.


Dr. Downey was the 2014 Faculty of Social Science Valedictorian. 

She has received the YWCA - Woman of Distinction - Lifetime Recognition award in 2014.


  • Downey, B. Understanding & Mending ‘Broken’ Hearts: Linking European Colonization and Indigenous Women’s Heart Health, and resiliency-focused approaches to health literacy. This award is offered by the CIHR Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health, the Institute of Gender and Health and the Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health in partnership with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

  • Downey, B. 'Chee Keykaydung [sharing knowledge] & Maamwi-Gnawending [caring together] Project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) through the Partnership Engage Grant.

  • Downey, B. Indigenous Cultural Safety Training. A Faculty of Health Sciences Education Innovation Fund offered by the McMaster Education Research, Innovation & Theory (MERIT). 

  • Downey, B. Developing Indigenous Health Learning Resources: Co-Creating a Harmonized Process for Student Participation. Leadership in Teaching and Learning Fellowship offered by the Paul R. MacPherson Institute. 

  • Downey, B. (PI), Gabel, C. (Co-PI), Parent, M. (co-PI), Hill, K. (Co-Knowledge), Strachan P. (Co-Knowledge), McKnight, C. (Co-Knowledge). Understanding Indigenous perception of heart health: Using photovoice to foster transformational outcomes in the development of culturally relevant approaches to cardiovascular care for Indigenous people. Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Catalyst Research Grant – Indigenous Approaches to Wellness.

  • Downey, B., Gabel, C., & Michele Parent-Bergeron. Understanding Indigenous perception of heart health; using photovoice to foster transformational outcomes in the development of culturally relevant approaches to cardiovascular care for Indigenous people. Grant, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Catalyst Grant. $111,640. 2018-2019

  • Downey, B. (Co-PI),  Hill, K (NPI). Juddah’s Place - An Indigenous Evaluation Project.   A CIHR Institute of Aboriginal Health (IAPH) and Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) funded project.
  • Downey, B. (Co-PI), Preston, J. (co-PI). Authentic Indigenous Research Partnerships -  A McMaster University Inter-disciplinary Fund project.
  • Dunn, J., Hwang, S. (co-PIs), Downey, B. Basic Income Pilot Project - Co-PI  A Ministry of Community and Social Services funded project.


Current research interests include Indigenous health, health literacy and Indigenous Traditional knowledge and health/research system reform for Indigenous populations.

Dr. Downey is currently affiliated as an Associate Researcher with the Well Living House at St. Michael’s Hospital. The Well Living House is an action research centre that is focused on Indigenous* infant, child and family health and well-being.

 Dr. Downey has participated on multiple, national and international Indigenous research policy initiatives including:

  •  Two-term member of the Canadian Institute of Health Research- Institute of Aboriginal Health, Institute Advisory Board
  • Planner and participant to the International Network of Indigenous Health Knowledge Development (INIHKD)
  • Chief Executive Officer of the National Aboriginal Health Organization whose mandate included a strong research-knowledge translation focus

​As part of her Post-doctoral role with the Department of Graduate Studies at McMaster, Dr. Downey led the development of the innovative Indigenous Undergraduate Summer Research Scholars Program (IUSRS) and the McMaster Indigenous Research Institute (MIRI).

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