Nicole Labine, from Fort Smith, has spent many years away from her community on her journey to become a doctor.
She just graduated from medical school at the University of Alberta, and is embarking on a five-year surgery residency in Saskatoon. After that, however, Labine plans to move back north.
“It’s how you give back,” she said. “This is the culture and the people who raised me to be the young physician I am today.”
She added: “The North doesn’t have an equal representation of Indigenous physicians. And I’d like to see that change.”
Neither did her medical school, where Labine was one of only five Indigenous students in a class of 162.
“I used it as an opportunity to be proud of where I'm from,” she reflected.
“I think it really taught me to be proud of my background, to be proud of being an individual from the North.”
Labine also took opportunities to educate her classmates about the Northwest Territories. In her last year of school, she helped organize a talk by Julie Lys, a nurse practitioner from Fort Smith.
“She had a very resoundingly positive response from my class, because they really saw the beauty in her story and really appreciated that she was able to share that with them,” Labine said.
“I’ve tried to bring a little bit of a 'North' of me wherever I go.”
After University of Alberta publication Folio ran an article on Labine in early June, youth across the country started contacting her.
She humbly says she still has five more long years of school ahead, but acknowledges it’s amazing to know her story is encouraging younger students.
“It always lifts me up,” she said, “and it makes me proud to know I still have a community of individuals behind me – that there is a next generation who can be inspired to dream bigger.”
She advises youth to set goals, celebrate the little successes, and reach out for help when they need it.
“I didn't accomplish this goal without the support of my family, my community, and my friends,” she said.
Labine’s father, Michel, proudly says Nicole was accepted into all three medical schools to which she applied.
“We're the proud parents of a girl that set her mind when she was three to become a doctor," he said. "She followed her dreams, worked really hard in school, and excelled.”