Pause and reflect: Students recognize Red Dress Day at Faculty of Medicine

Faculty of Medicine
Equity, diversity and inclusion

By Michelle Read

Writer, Faculty of Medicine

A collage of red dresses hanging from a ceiling
Photos: Katerina Frédéric
Med students hung red dresses around RGN in early May to call the spirits of the missing and murdered women, girls and 2-spirit peoples back to their loved ones.

Red dresses and paper dolls were hung at Roger Guindon Hall (RGN) last week, encouraging the Faculty community to pause and reflect.

The display was an initiative of the Indigenous Health Interest Group (IHIG), a special interest group for students at the Faculty of Medicine. Group co-executive Katherine Jung says students organized the display to recognize and raise awareness of Red Dress Day on May 5, also known as the National Day of Awareness for Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and 2SLGBTQI+ people (MMIWG2S).

A red dress hanging from a ceiling

“Red Dress: A Symbol of Resilience and Remembrance.”

- Message accompanying each red dress hung at the Faculty of Medicine in early May

“I believe that this is a very important topic directly impacting health care, our future patients, and us as future trainees,” says Katherine, a 2nd year medical student at the University of Ottawa.

Awad Ibrahim, vice-provost of Equity, Diversity and Inclusive Excellence (EDIE) at the University of Ottawa, was congratulatory of the students’ initiative, which he would welcome in other uOttawa buildings.

The Faculty of Medicine and its Indigenous Program are committed to shedding light on health issues affecting Indigenous communities while encouraging greater diversity among the student population.

IHIG recently held another event in honour of Red Dress Day, in collaboration with the Women's Health Interest Group (WHIG) and other student groups. Participants were invited to create faceless dolls as part of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) Faceless Doll Project, an initiative created by artist Gloria Larocque for NWAC.

“The dolls represent MMIWG2S+ who have become ‘faceless’ victims of violence,” explains Katherine.

Dolls created by participants at the Faculty hung alongside the red dresses at RGN in a week-long display from May 5 to 10. MD student and IHIG executive Sierra Land helped Katherine organize the display, as did MD student Lindsey Zhang, member of the Women's Health Interest Group (WHIG).

“We hung the red dresses around the school to call the spirits of the missing and murdered women, girls and 2-spirit peoples back to their loved ones and honour them at our school,” Katherine says.

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