Doing Great Things for Indigenous Communities

Dr. Christopher Mushquash is a man with a mission. A clinical psychologist and professor in the Department of Psychology at Lakehead University, and a Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Mental Health and Addiction, Dr. Mushquash has devoted his career to addressing mental health- and addiction-related issues in rural and Indigenous communities with an eye toward training and capacity-building for the next generation.

Dr. Mushquash is Anishinawbe and a member of Pawgwasheeng (Pays Plat First Nation). Born and raised in Sioux Lookout, his identity is strongly rooted in his First Nation culture. In fact, his desire to be of service to his community was the motivation for becoming a clinical psychologist. “Growing up in Northwestern Ontario,” said Dr. Mushquash, "I came to understand that there are significant disparities in the availability of health services. I had a particular interest in mental health and addiction, as well as research. I saw clinical psychology as a vehicle for me to develop skills that might be of use to others.”

A Lakehead alumnus himself (bachelor’s and master’s degrees), Dr. Mushquash is recognized in Canada as a leader in his field and is the recipient of numerous awards and honours. He is a teacher and active mentor for students; a researcher and scholar with a lengthy resume of published articles; and an active clinician serving patients at Dilico Anishinabek Family Care, a First Nations community-based service organization in Fort William First Nation.

As one of only a handful of First Nation registered clinical psychologists in Canada, he is keenly aware of the gravity of his work. “There is a tremendous amount of capacity and wisdom in our communities,” said Dr. Mushquash. “At the same time, there remains a significant need, and motivation for healing. To be able to work with others to support Indigenous communities and people is an absolute honour and privilege.”

If you add in his other titles, Director of the Centre for Rural and Northern Health; Associate Vice President Research at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre and Chief Scientist at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Research Institute, it’s a wonder how he juggles all his critical roles. Perhaps that’s why teaching and training students are such integral parts of his work.

“Lakehead is an important partner. They provide the research and teaching infrastructure, and they create the environment for students to complete their clinical training,” said Dr. Mushquash. “It would be difficult to do the volume of work that we do without the capacity that trainees bring to our work. And they will be the ones doing it in the future.”

Despite his long list of titles and accomplishments and the life-changing impact of his work Dr. Mushquash prefers to shine the spotlight on others. He doesn’t see his legacy as the story of one man who did great things for his community. Instead, when the time comes to look back on his career, he said, “My hope is that I will have contributed to healing in our communities through research, clinical care, and through capacity building and training of others who will continue the journey long after I am gone.”