Volume 10 • 2023 • Issue 1

dentist and insisted that she didn’t want to specialize. This decision was due, in part, to the time commitment it takes, but also because she perceived specialization as something that was out of her reach. Practising in First Nations Communities After she earned her dental degree, Dr. McKinstry began practising dentistry with the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB) serving rural First Nations communities. Fortunately, Dr. McKinstry had family connections with some of the communities. “I initially provided dental services to Koostatak/Fisher River, Kinonjeoshtegon/Jackhead and HollowWater in 2005,” Dr. McKinstry says. “My biological paternal grandmother originated from Fisher River, and my grandfather’s family was originally registered with Peguis. While some of my family is still registered with Peguis, my dad, myself and my siblings are registered with Sagkeeng First Nation. My mom’s maternal and paternal side of the family is from the Bad Throat/Manigotagan area. Sadly, we don’t know much of the origins of her biological paternal family,” she says. “In addition to the original three communities, I picked up other First Nations communities over the years, but Fisher River and Jackhead are where I spent much of my dental career. They are amazing communities with beautiful people.” For the first six years of her career, Dr. McKinstry would drive to and from the communities where she provided dental services each day so she could be home with her family in the evenings. Then for the last six years, she spent the week in the communities where she worked and came home on the weekends. She heard stories about people’s difficult experiences with the medical system and the oral health system. “Which, of course, I wanted to fix,” she says, “in whatever way I could.” Dental School in Manitoba At the University of Manitoba (U of M), Dr. McKinstry qualified for a program that provided support for Indigenous students. “This program was my lifesaver,” Dr. McKinstry says. “It helped me navigate a system, the university, that was completely novel to me.” When her daughter was in first grade, Dr. McKinstry was in her first year of dental school. “My daughter would tell me that I was in grade one of dentistry, so we were in the same situation,” she says. While in dental school, Dr. McKinstry focused on getting her work done while raising four children. “I felt very privileged to be there,” she says. “I was in disbelief sometimes that I was at university, especially in dentistry, because of my childhood and background.” She didn’t have time to socialize much, but she says her classmates were supportive. Dr. Charles Lekic, who was the programdirector of pediatric dentistry at the U of M, became Dr. McKinstry’s mentor. “He was our class advisor and took care of all of us during those four years,” she says. “I think he tried to influence all of us to become pediatric dentists.” She planned to be a general Dr. McKinstry after receiving her Masters of Public Health in 2017. I was exploring what it meant to me to be First Nation. I wanted to know why my life as a child was so different from the lives of other Canadians. 24 | 2023 | Issue 1 Issues and People