Alumna part of nursing's first class

Internationally recognized for her outstanding achievements and contributions to Canadian and aboriginal health care, Dr. Madeleine Dion Stout (BN '82), former Distinguished Alumnus of the year (1995), vividly remembers the day she began her remarkable journey in the field of health care.

"When I was seven years old I started having severe abdominal pain, nausea and a fever. My mother and father hitched up the horse and wagon and we drove all day through the ditches to get to the outpost hospital," remembers Dion Stout. "A lot of people look at ditches as a metaphor for a low life, but I remember feeling overwhelmed with love for my parents and with their love for me as they sat in the wagon so dignified. They had great determination to make sure I was OK no matter how humbly we navigated. In a way, they were like the nurses who would take care of me, so dignified going about their corporal acts of mercy."

Arriving at the hospital, Dion Stout underwent an emergency appendectomy and had her first exposure to nursing. Impressed by the nurses' gentle touches, kind demeanour and white winged hats, Dion Stout decided she would be a nurse one day.

"After high school I went to work as a ward aid in St. Paul, Alta. I applied to Edmonton General Hospital to become a registered nurse because there was a Cree woman from the Saddle Lake First Nation studying there, and I thought if she was accepted maybe I could be too," says Dion Stout.

She completed her RN in 1968 and began working in various capacities for Health and Welfare Canada and as a hospital staff nurse in Edmonton before moving to Pincher Creek to work as a public health nurse on the Peigan First Nation. Wanting to further her education, Dion Stout was thrilled when the University of Lethbridge launched its bachelor of nursing program.

"We were the first graduates in 1982," recalls Dion Stout. "I found it a real privilege to study, but I never found it easy. The academic quality at the University was superb and very challenging. I had to work my head off."

Dion Stout, who graduated with a Bachelor of Nursing degree with distinction in 1982, credits the University with honing her widely recognized critical thinking and analytical skills.

"I wrote a paper for Dr. Menno Boldt. I thought I aced it because I had worked so hard on it. I only got a B+. He told me that it was a descriptive essay and not an analytic paper. That was when I learned the difference between writing a good story and being a critical thinker," says Dion Stout.

After her graduation in 1982, Dion Stout began working with the Alberta Indian Health Care Commission. She worked as a special advisor in 1983 to Monique Begin, minister of Health and Welfare Canada, and in 1985 Dion Stout became the director of the Indian and Inuit Health Careers Program in Ottawa.

By 1989, Dion Stout knew it was time to further her education once again. She began a master of arts in international affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa and graduated in 1993. While writing her thesis, she became the director for the Centre for Aboriginal Education, Research and Culture at Carleton. She worked as an assistant professor there until 2001 when she and her husband moved to Vancouver.

"I keep myself very busy with boards and committees. In the past nine years, I have been doing the same things I had been doing as a professor, lecturing, researching, writing and public speaking. I use a Cree lens and Cree concepts to try to deepen the understanding of aboriginal health," explains Dion Stout. "I hope throughout my career that I have made people think differently, and I hope that whatever I have done and said that more is done than said at the end."


• Dion Stout is a grandmother of three.

• A Cree speaker, she was born and raised on the Kehewin First Nation, Alta.

• She is the president of Dion Stout Reflections Inc.

• She is a recipient of numerous awards, including: 2010 National Aboriginal Achievement Award - Health; 2008 Centennial Nursing Award; 2004 Honorary PhD from University of British Columbia.

• Her speaking engagements have seen her lecture throughout Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia.